Thailand has seen a sharp rise in the number of Russian tourists in the country. So far this year over 370,000 Russian visitors have arrived in Thailand. That’s 67% of last year’s entire total of 435,000. Pol Maj Gen Phanthana Nutchanart, the deputy commander of the Immigration Bureau assures though that the influx has not increased Russian criminal activity.
The official stated that there has been no indication of any Russians sneaking into the country through illegal channels. They also say hardened criminals are not making it into Thailand, just well-off vacationers.
“There are those who have been convicted for petty offences, such as shoplifting and traffic violations, but they are not that big a problem. Those with serious criminal records, however, are barred from entering the country. Most Russians visiting Thailand are affluent holidaymakers and prefer to visit seaside provinces.”
Many officials believe that escaping the war and the Russian invasion of Ukraine is not the main motivation for Russian travellers. Rather, they just want to escape the cold and flock to the sun, like tourists from other cold-winter locations.
Russian tourists have flocked to popular locations such as Phuket, Koh Samui in Surat Thani, and Pattaya. In February, Russians were the third largest demographic entering Thailand overall. But they were the largest group in Koh Samui’s 100,000 tourists in January, which pumped 1.33 billion baht into the economy.
But none of those places has not seen a sharp rise in Russian citizens who could be a national security threat. The Tourist Police Bureau confirmed that no Russian organised crime rings have been found in the wave of tourism.
On the other hand, many, especially locals, are complaining that Russians are investing in tourism businesses and real estate, taking business from locals and driving astounding inflation. Motorbike rentals on Koh Samui have tripled in price as Russians snatched up bikes from Thai rental shops struggling in Covid.
And foreigners renting blocks of cheap housing and illegally subletting them in Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan has caused prices to skyrocket, sometimes up to 10 times the previous monthly rental price. Immigration was doing random inspections of homes and businesses in Koh Pha Ngan last week.
The president of the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association said that since Thailand reopened its borders and eased travel restrictions late last year, the number of Russian tourists arriving in Pattaya has increased to between 500 and 700 per day. Many Russian tourists spend about 10-20 days in Pattaya.
“Jomtien Beach and Wong Amat Beach are full of Russian tourists. They are everywhere in Pattaya. Most tourists in Pattaya are Russians. Russian tourists spend an estimated B3,000-5,000 each per day in Pattaya. Most spend time on beaches and shopping. Many signs in Russian are posted in Pattaya.”
In Phuket, the increase in Russian tourists has also benefited the local economy. Spending by Russian tourists has boosted the local economy in Phuket, and local tourism-related businesses hit by Covid are making a quick recovery.
The president of the Phuket Real Estate Association said the real estate business in Phuket has recovered quickly as the island is popular with foreign tourists looking to escape the cold weather in the Northern Hemisphere. He said the pool villas and condos are popular among foreigners looking to invest. Russians usually stay between one week and up to six months. Most are booking higher-end accommodations like pool villas.
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