Over 44,000 Russians traveled to Thailand in October, compared to under 10,000 monthly arrivals during the preceding months since the start of the year. Most visitors flew in on chartered flights, using credit cards issued outside the country to get around payment difficulties.
According to the Phuket Tourist Association (PTA), flights operated by airlines such as Azur Air and commercial flights from the Aeroflot flag carrier have been bringing tourists from the Russian capital Moscow, as well as cities such as Novosibirsk and Vladivostok, to Bangkok and popular beach destinations like Pattaya and Phuket.
PTA Advisory Chairman Bhummikitti Ruktaengam said, “Russian tourist arrivals are currently ranked first in Phuket,” adding that there are now considerably more Russian visitors than Indian tourists.
This contrasts sharply with the near total absence of Russians for about six months after airlines were forced to halt flights and tourists found it difficult to make payments following the suspension of most Russian banks from the SWIFT payment system and a plunge in the ruble.
In the absence of Chinese travelers, the largest group of visitors to Thailand before the pandemic, the return of Russian tourists is seen accelerating a recovery in the nation’s tourism industry.
Bhummikitti noted that Russians, whose average length of stay is at least 12 days in Phuket, have been using credit cards issued in other countries and cash to pay for trips and shopping. Thanet Supornsahasrangsi, President of the Tourism Council of Chonburi, meanwhile said most financial transactions are settled in Dubai and other Middle Eastern destinations.
Tanet also said Pattaya is set to see a rush of tourists in the coming months based on advance bookings.
Thailand expects to welcome more than 20 million travelers next year, which would be double the visitors for this year but only about half of pre-pandemic arrivals.