Operators want government to ease rule on alcohol sales

Operators want government to ease rule on alcohol sales

People walk along Pattaya's Walking Street which draws both foreigners and local tourists primarily for its night life.
People walk along Pattaya's Walking Street which draws both foreigners and local tourists primarily for its night life.

The extension to the opening hours of entertainment venues and the liquor tax incentive has made less of a positive impact on tourism than expected, while operators urged the government to consider cancelling the limited hours available for the sale of alcoholic drinks.

Last week, the alcoholic beverage control committee at the Ministry of Public Health rejected lifting the ban on sales of alcoholic beverages between 2pm and 5pm, citing public health and safety concerns.

Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, president of the Association of Chonburi Tourism Federation, said the prohibition of alcohol sales in the afternoon should be lifted as the rule always confuses tourists when visiting the country.

Mr Thanet said many foreign tourists generally tend to order alcoholic drinks as a part of their meal. The sales ban on important days in the Buddhist calendar and on election days are also not relevant to them, he said.

He urged the government to consider an alternative measure, for instance allowing foreign tourists to purchase alcoholic drinks to stimulate tourism spending.

Despite limiting the hours for the sale of alcoholic drinks, those who want to consume them would still purchase alcoholic drinks during the period when they are allowed to and would then hoard them.

Mr Thanet said most tourists rarely drive a vehicle, but use public transport or a taxi when getting around, so there should not be any concerns regarding accidents.

Instead, the government should strictly enforce the law against driving while under the influence of alcohol (drunk driving).

Regarding the reduction in liquor tax that has been implemented, it should somewhat benefit the sales of locally produced products as foreign tourists tend to seek local goods during their trips abroad.

The government should use this opportunity to actively promote the consumption of such products to compete with imported liquor, through good prices and design.

Given the extension of opening hours for entertainment venues until 4am, Mr Thanet said, so far it should increase earnings for operators with a licence or in the designated zones by around 20-30%, driven by the tourism high season.

However, concerns would grow among residents or tourists who did not enjoy drinking or nightlife entertainment in affected areas, since the zoning today follows the 2002 regulation, which covers not only Pattaya Walking Street, but also areas along the beach where many hotels and residences are located.

Sanga Ruangwattanakul, president of the Khao San Road Business Association, said the venues operating the extended hours do not benefit Khaosan Road, since it is not located within a designated zoning area.

Mr Sanga said the authorities should consider a new zone and include Khaosan, which is a popular nightlife street among foreign tourists.

By extending the operating time through zoning, it is easier for police and law enforcement to regulate tourists and drunk party-goers.

Mr Sanga said this has also been under regular security patrols by municipalities and local police, with the district planning to add more CCTV cameras along the road.

Meanwhile, a reduction in the entertainment venue tax to 5% from 10% is still a burden for operators due to the country's uneven economic recovery, although operators can still pass on some costs to consumers, he said.

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