The Bitcoin scaling debate affects some businesses more than others, but few real-world businesses have the volume to watch Bitcoin’s momentum react to it like the tourist hotspot, the Pattaya Beer Garden. Bitcoin.com discussed adoption trends in Thailand with Peter Noid, the proprietor of this large and popular restaurant and bar located in the Southern city of Pattaya.
Bitcoin Accepted at the Pattaya Beer Garden
With seating for 400 and “around 2,000 visitors a day,” the Pattaya Beer Garden started accepting bitcoin in early 2014 when the Thai government first eased its stance on Bitcoin’s legality. “I was an early Bitcoin supporter,” Noid told Bitcoin.com. “We started accepting it as soon as the Thai government said it was not illegal to do so.”
In 2013, the Thai central bank declared the use of bitcoin illegal in Thailand, but changed its opinion in early 2014 to make it not illegal. However, buying bitcoin in Thailand and then selling it outside the country was still strictly prohibited, Noid explained. The revised stance “enabled us to begin accepting bitcoin,” he recalled. While there is currently no official law governing Bitcoin in the country, the central bank’s opinion is revered, and early adopters there have had to tread lightly.
The infrastructure for Bitcoin acceptance has grown but merchants are still very cautious to this day. “Bitcoin is well established in Thailand with a number of good local exchanges that have good liquidity,” Noid described. However, “merchant acceptance is very low. Just a few of us in Pattaya and a few more in Bangkok,” he added.
Noid uses Bitpay for merchant processing. “We hold 100% in bitcoin. I have never cashed out,” he conveyed, noting that he has been a big believer in Bitcoin’s future. While only a small percentage of his business is currently done in bitcoin, it is still at a frequency far higher than most bitcoin-accepting establishments receive. The beer garden gets “on average 1 or 2 bitcoin transactions a day,” he revealed, adding that:
I love the whole idea of Bitcoin and I am 100% convinced that merchants like me can do a lot to raise awareness.
To that end, Noid placed “we accept bitcoin” stickers predominantly around the premises which has led to “hundreds of inquiries about what the heck is Bitcoin.” This allows him to introduce many new people to the digital currency. “I enjoy doing that,” he said.
Tourism Industry Leads Bitcoin Adoption
“Tourism is the 2nd biggest industry in Thailand and the biggest industry by far in Pattaya,” Noid noted. The beachfront town receives roughly 8 million visitors each year from every corner of the globe.
“Bitcoin customers reflect that diversity although I would say Americans are probably the largest group of users we see,” he said. “On any day you could easily find visitors from 25 different countries at the Pattaya Beer Garden.” This makes the establishment one of the few places where one can watch global Bitcoin adoption trends in the wild on a daily basis.
The beer garden is an expansive tourist spot in one of the most congested parts of the main Pattaya strip, with a dining area overhanging the water.
The tourist hangout is patronized by customers from diverse demographics. The group consists of “a lot of couples which are predominantly 40+ American and European males and 20+ Thai females,” Noid divulged. “Quite a few Thai family groups and younger foreign men as well.”
He sees a lot of young Russian couples and older Chinese men too, and it’s this latter group that he often sees paying in bitcoin. “There are not a lot of places you can do that in Thailand so it’s a novelty for a lot of Bitcoiners,” Noid conveyed. “I have personally met many of these people and had some great discussions.” The beer garden gets “a lot of visitors who come specifically to spend their bitcoin,” he added.
Widespread Credit Card Fraud
In Thailand, like most countries, credit cards are widely known and accepted. “However a lot of tourists are reluctant to use [credit cards] because of fraud which is also well known here,” he explained, adding ATM fraud to the list of problems with the legacy financial system in Thailand. “For me, bitcoin is clearly the superior choice but of course most of our customers do not know that,” he said. “Bitcoin should be more widely adopted as it is so easy and safe for tourists.”
That’s why the Pattaya Beer Garden accepts zero-confirmation transactions for all bitcoin payments. “Any other choice would not be practical in a retail situation. We have never had one go bad and we have well over a thousand transactions,” he shared, illustrating the ample goodwill that still exists in the Bitcoin community.
Bitcoin Adoption Stalled
“It [Bitcoin adoption] grew quite rapidly until the ‘don’t buy a coffee with Bitcoin’ meme grew as well,” he recalled. With a saddened heart, he added, “We have seen little growth in bitcoin transactions this past year.” In fact, he said:
Adoption has ceased growing here.
“Paying for your beer or coffee may not be an important economic function but it makes Bitcoin real in people’s minds,” Noid stated. In his view, the current impasse in the scaling debate is the culprit that is “doing immense harm” to Bitcoin adoption. Specifically, “high fees and long confirmation times are definitely impacting adoption. That saddens me greatly,” he admitted.
“I was quite active getting other merchants to accept bitcoin here but I no longer advocate this,” he continued. “The present gridlock in Bitcoin is not something I wish to explain to potential merchant adopters.”
Noid fully understands that Bitcoin “cannot scale on chain to Visa/Mastercard levels,” and contemplated “second layer solutions may well be the answer or any other of the myriad proposals.” However, he made his stance clear that Bitcoin needs a quick fix in the meantime. “While that gets sorted out we need to scale on-chain right now to allow adoption to continue increasing and create more customers for whatever other scaling solutions actually get implemented,” he said, adding that:
Right here at the coal face of Bitcoin acceptance I can feel the momentum Bitcoin once had slipping away. I am very pissed off about that.
Do you think the scaling debate is holding back other merchants like it does in Thailand? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Albin Lageder, and Bill Pearson