Russians take Thailand by storm

Since September, Russian tourist arrivals in Thailand have increased sevenfold. A number of favourable factors make Thailand the perfect place to escape the icy grip of winter in Russia this year.

Thailand, especially Pattaya and Phuket, has always been a popular holiday destination for Russians, with 1.48 million of them arriving in Thailand in 2019.

Pre-pandemic, Russia was once Thailand’s 7th largest tourism market. But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and international tourism drew to a standstill, Pattaya’s Russian-language toilet signs momentarily lost their purpose.

In July, Thailand opened up the country again and tourism grew exponentially. In particular, the Russian market made a stunning comeback, especially since the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Last month, Russia was the third biggest market after Malaysia and India.

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An estimated 700,000 Russians fled the country since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced military conscription in September. Many went to Kazakhstan, Serbia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Finland, and Thailand.

Many countries closed their doors to Russians fleeing conscription, citing widespread support for Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine as the reason for the ban.

Thailand, however, sent a clear message that Russians were welcome in Thailand this winter by organising chartered flights just for Russians.

Thailand became even more desirable to Russians when Thailand decided to extend visa exemption on arrivals from 30 to 45 days, effective October 1, 2022. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Russians prefer to stay in Thailand for much longer than other tourists.

On October 30, Russian flag-carrier Aeroflot resumed direct flights between Moscow and Phuket in preparation to facilitate an exodus of Russian tourists this winter.

Thailand’s battered tourism industry appreciates the return of the Russians, who contribute significantly to Thailand’s tourism revenue.

The TAT expects total tourist arrivals to reach 11.5 million before the end of 2022. The TAT already exceeded its goal of 10 million tourists before the end of the year.

Tourism still has nothing on pre-pandemic levels when the kingdom was welcoming an average of 40 million tourists every year. With the help of Russians, Thailand’s tourism industry is mending.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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