As I am on holiday, I returned to Thailand for the break. I thought about going in one of my favourite restaurants at the Landmark Hotel that I have blogged about before. They do a great buffet dinner and buffet Sunday lunch. As I was walking past thought I saw the sign in the picture that showed the Sunday dinner was now 950 baht. This is a huge increase in the prices from just a few years ago. In 2014, the price was just 690 baht. In 2015 it went up to 790 baht, in 2016 it was 850 baht and now 950 baht. That is 260 baht increase in just 3 years, a huge 38% in that time.
Of course, these prices are still a lot lower than what is paid in the west, however, Bangkok in particular seems to be turning into an expensive capital city. Now, this of course is likely to happen as a country develops, but it got me thinking if I have seen any major changes in development of this country and are the local people actually benefiting from these higher prices.
On forums and the Twittersphere, expats often complain about prices increasing in Thailand and Bangkok in particular, I have experienced this myself, sadly it seems that the only beneficiary are the already rich. Landlords are very greedy in Thailand and are charging more and more in rents, particularly to businesses, even though the economy has shrunk. They will argue that the numbers of tourists entering Thailand is going up year on year, which is true. If you look deeper into the numbers, however, you will see that particular types of tourists have been entering. Thailand has targeted the Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern market to attract more tourists and this is certainly working. This leaves a problem though for those that cater for European and American tourists.
The numbers of British tourists have dropped by two thirds in the past few years, other European tourist numbers have fallen, as have visits from US citizens. These are the type of people that want to hang out in bars and buy traditional Sunday Roasts. Chinese and Middle Eastern tourists are more interested in the gift shops and fancy hotels. The big hotels are certainly benefiting, but again, where does this money go? To an international chain where the rich get richer and the local Thai’s that work there remain on a minimum wage. Greedy landlords still charge restaurants and bars catering for European and American tourists higher and higher rents even through their numbers have shrunk. This forces some to close, putting local Thai’s out of work and forcing them to look for other jobs in an already crowded sector.
I don’t see any money from these increased prices helping the poorer people in Thailand. There remains a very small middle class, with just the poor and super rich that dominate. The rich will take their rents and profits and the poor will continue to work for minimum wage, trying to scrape a living. I hope Thailand does all it can to redress this situation as soon as it can.