A Royal Coast Review Editorial Comment
In the aftermath of a ban in Thailand provinces, official decisions were made to allow the service of alcoholic beverages in designated ‘Blue Zones’ at restaurants from November 15th 2021. This service was later extended to include entertainment venues, such as bars, pubs, and karaoke lounges in these zones to be able to operate as temporary restaurants.
In Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, the Blue Zone, initially proposed after lobbying by the Hua Hin Recharge project, only covered a coastal area often just 5 kilometres inland.
This is an area of 86.3 square kilometres within the Hua Hin municipality and Nong Kae district. It commences just south of the Khao Tao lake and north to the provincial border near the Hua Hin Airport. North of Hua Hin, a similar adjoining zone applies in Phetchaburi Province, only for the Cha-Am municipality area.
There have been no changes to extend these zones since the November decisions. It has now been over four months since this zoning arrangement has been in place.
These are political boundaries, rather than the boundaries of regional tourism, community or social life. Businesses outside these small areas remain unable to serve alcohol to consume on their premises.
Although many small operators are increasingly choosing to ignore the ban, or believe they have some sort of tacit official approval, that’s not the way ‘brand name’ businesses can afford to operate.
This has led to many long-suffering and important tourism attractions, as well as smaller businesses eager to obey the regulations are now asking the question of tourism officials and government agencies – how, or when, will these restrictions change?
As Banyan CEO Tjeert Kwant says “good for Hua Hin and the Nong Kae district, worse for the other districts. We can serve alcohol at Banyan Residence but not at Banyan Golf. No logic in this decision.”
Black Mountain and Majestic Creek are also Prachuap Khiri Khan provincial golf course that are excluded.
Monsoon Valley Vineyard is outside the zone, although their downtown wine bar is within. The annual Harvest Festival has been a recent casualty. As one visitor said “we had a group party at Guido’s (the Monsoon Valley Food & Beverage Manager). Eight people wine watching, but not wine tasting; what a crazy bunch of rules.”
Other attractions south of Hua Hin at Pranburi and Prachuap City, including many hotels and resorts, also miss out.
There are similar disappointments for restaurants outside the Blue Zone of Cha-Am. Palm Hills Golf course is OK, but restaurants at both Springfield Royal Country Club and Lakeview haven’t made the cut.
Recent comments by the Prachuap Khiri Khan Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor have suggested that continuing restricted zones are about low vaccination rates or the provincial proximity to the Myanmar border; but without comment about why this does not seem to apply to some provinces such as Kanchanaburi, where the Blue Zone encompasses the full province.
To date there have been no public comment or signs of regional lobbying efforts at any government, tourism association or other levels for changes to the Blue Zone arrangements, apart from a notion that individual businesses could somehow apply for a special exemption.
This topic was a hot item at the March meeting of the Royal Coast Riviera Club, a group formed to influence regional quality tourism destination policies. With the TAT local governor and tourism association representatives in attendance; perhaps this is the first sign of such an effort.