Thai visa extension for Russians sparks mixed industry reactions

Photo courtesy of Mike Swigunski (Unsplash)

The Thai Cabinet’s decision to extend the stay period for Russian tourists under the visa extension to 90 days, from the previous 30 days, has sparked mixed reactions. While some tourism operators fear an increase in illegal work activity, others in the south see potential for a boost in spending.

The new policy, announced on Monday, aims to stimulate the market during the high season. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has indicated plans to negotiate further cooperation areas with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, the former president of the Chon Buri Tourism Council and group executive director of Sunshine Hotels and Resorts, expressed concern that the extension may attract more Russians intending to work illegally in Thailand.

This, he argued, could impact local job seekers like tour guides and drivers. He also suggested that foreign companies could potentially exploit this policy by hiring their own imported staff.

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Thanet noted that Russian tourists in Pattaya typically stay for 12-24 days, with chartered flights arriving from Russian cities at U-tapao airport every 12 days.

These flight schedules limit the tourists to a maximum stay of less than a month.

Optimistic tour operators

Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, revealed that contrarily, tourism operators in Koh Samui and Phuket are optimistic about longer stays.

“As a lot of long-stay tourists and remote workers from Russia have resided in Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, the extension will help attract this segment and benefit the overall local economy.”

Ratchaporn acknowledged the potential for criminal activity, such as illegal tour businesses or companies with Thai nominees. However, he argued that such enterprises are not significant, and most tourists still rely on local products and services.

In Phuket, Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, anticipates greater spending by tourists. He referenced the post-Covid trend of tourists preferring extended stays at destinations.

Despite the anticipated benefits of the scheme, authorities are urged to implement stringent measures to address potential illegal businesses exploiting the policy.

As of October 15, over 1.03 million Russian tourists had visited Thailand. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is aiming for 1.47 million by year’s end, reported Bangkok Post. Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT’s deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas, noted increased travel demand from the Russian market during the cool season.

Siripakorn asserted that the TAT will monitor “Hub and Hook” packages, which encourage Russians to visit secondary destinations from the three hubs—U-tapao, Bangkok, and Phuket—to cater to those desiring longer stays in Thailand.

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Alex Morgan

Alex is a 42-year-old former corporate executive and business consultant with a degree in business administration. Boasting over 15 years of experience working in various industries, including technology, finance, and marketing, Alex has acquired in-depth knowledge about business strategies, management principles, and market trends. In recent years, Alex has transitioned into writing business articles and providing expert commentary on business-related issues. Fluent in English and proficient in data analysis, Alex strives to deliver well-researched and insightful content to readers, combining practical experience with a keen analytical eye to offer valuable perspectives on the ever-evolving business landscape.

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