Owner, Rabbit Resort Pattaya
Dongtan Beach, Pattaya
Walking along Dongtan Beach, Pattaya promenade at 7:30am is a daily ritual for me. It brings a sense of much needed normalcy; sharing pleasantries with the other exercisers is a soothing reminder of life prior to Covid-19. It is also hopeful knowing that every passerby is facing similar decisions with unknown answers.
Being almost 70 years old, living and working in Pattaya has been a dream come true. The exceptional tropical beach weather, sociability within the community, expanding commercial development and light traffic compared to Bangkok, are reasons enough why my husband and I chose to make this city our permanent home.
For the past twenty two years I’ve been a resident of Pattaya - that’s saying a lot from a Southern California beach girl. Unfortunately, Pattaya does suffer from a sordid image, but there is another side that attracts retirees, families and couples that you seldom hear about.
Bangkok - Sukhmvit 1989
It has been an exciting, 31-year adventure since moving to Thailand with my wonderful, Thai husband Paisan. Initially we spent 10 years in Bangkok while the BTS was under construction. We almost lived on the tracks where the pounding of the piling could be heard unceasingly. Then we encountered the Tom Yum Goong financial crisis in 1998, which was a humbling experience.
For 10 years in Bangkok, my work allowed me to travel to almost every corner of the country as a consultant for real estate developers. Conducting feasibility analysis and housing market research would later assist in creating the design and concept for our future resort.
My husband inherited 10 rai of land in Jomtien, from his parents. We loved the variety of the city and its close proximity to Bangkok. We wanted to live, work and play on the beach. Our idea was to build a small resort, it was the perfect opportunity to semi-retire. We thought.....
We had no former experience in hospitality. We didn’t know how much hard work would be required every day to develop a successful resort business. We seldom even went to the beach, rarely walking along the waves. We just awed at it from the resort. Many people have wondered why the name Rabbit? It was a very conscious decision. We wanted a name that people around the world could resonate to - simple, friendly and charming. It was chosen because my husband was born in the year of the Rabbit.
We were unsure what type of resort the guests wanted. With no hospitality experience this was an important question. My consumer research revealed that guests wanted to feel like they were in Thailand. Not just a hotel room, but a cultural experience and that is what we built. Traditional Thai houses with old wood and contemporary details. A low density environment, only one or two stories, no lifts and lots of open space. Basically, it is the epitome of social distancing, located directly on Dongtan Beach.
Trip Advisor also started in 2000. For 11 years our resort was ranked #1 in Pattaya and we still maintain Travelers Choice Award status. I have always placed great importance upon guests’ satisfaction, creating a warm and comfortable environment during their visit. We also allowed customers to bring their small pets with them when staying with us.
In late March of this year, it was apparent that we needed to close the resort because of Covid-19. Emotionally fighting the inevitable, we announced that April 1, 2020 we would close. After 20 years of continuous hard work I was distressed. Crying, depressed and afraid of the future. Shortly thereafter, the Thai government mandated hotel closures.
We will re-open on 9 October, 2020. Our thinking was to watch and wait to understand the pandemic and its effect on tourism in Thailand. We have renovated the resort, painting everything to a fresh new look. Cleaning and replacing anything we hadn’t done in twenty years. Now finished, the resort is ready for guests to return.
Today, the only available market for us is the domestic Thailand market. Guests are primarily generated from Metropolitan Bangkok which is less than two hours away. From our experience we know that this guest normally stays only one night, Saturday night. That’s only four nights per month except when there is a long holiday. So, we are opening a limited number of rooms on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only.
Pattaya International Ladies Club (PILC) has been a life-saver since the Covid -19 appeared. Established in 1987 it has over 150 members from 42 countries, including Thailand. Most ladies have returned to their home now, but there are still approximately 40 that regularly attend monthly coffee mornings and lunches.
This organization has helped the Pattaya community tremendously, raising funds and assisting charities. It is the cohesive glue that holds the expatriate community together in the city. It’s a very interesting and diverse group of women. They often have higher degrees and held powerful management positions in their home country. I have always thought that these women are a valuable, untapped resource that can help Thailand, if given the chance.
Many arrived in Pattaya with their top management husbands working for international firms within the industrial estates that surround Pattaya. The ladies are mostly my age, over 60. Some of them are now widows. It surprised me that many chose to stay in Pattaya alone. Personally, I will be in Pattaya for the rest of my life. Thailand is my home.
Pattaya people are resilient, they are survivors believing that the future can be better, carving their lives around their potential. I must remind myself everyday not to give up, to keep forging ahead no matter what. Circumstances don’t make us, our attitude and belief system is the deep well we must continually draw upon during precarious times.
Yes, Covid-19 is a tremendous obstacle for everyone. However, together we will continue on course with hope, courage and enthusiasm. No matter what happens, no matter what the world throws at us.