The Russians are coming! The recent mass Russian invasion of Thailand has taken the country’s tourism forces completely by surprise.
Unexpected numbers of tourists from the war-torn county have tourism operators scrambling to cope with an army of independent travellers, more than capable of looking after themselves, and left commentators scrambling to occupy the moral high ground.
Despite the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, the Russian tourism market has returned much quicker than expected, said Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) president Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn.
Tourism businesses and providers of guides and buses are remarkably poorly prepared for the influx, despite months or even years of doing very little.
ATTA more focused on assisting tour operators than actual tourists, is preoccupied with the dissemination of marketing information to a group that has their own ideas about what they want from their time in the kingdom.
Russia ranks only 13th this year in terms of Thailand’s source markets with 230,000 happy travellers besieging beaches, temples and the ever-popular red-light districts across the country. However, arrivals have increased significantly this month via Aeroflot flights from Novosibirsk and chartered flights. Pattaya and Phuket are the main destinations for chartered flights from Russia.
“There are very few Thai operators who specialise in the Russian market — most of the players are native Russians.
“As those local specialists in the Russian market have yet to resume operations. Thai operators that are not fluent in this market are likely to face a few hiccups after being closed for a long time as they try to restart their businesses.”
Adith said it would take until the beginning of next year for his members to adjust to the new Russian flavour of visitors.
Sisdivachr claimed that numbers of visitors from India, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore have already fully returned, despite limited flight capacity and clear evidence to the contrary on the beaches and islands. Previously vital markets in northern Asia such as Taiwan and Japan remain flat, Sisdivachr said.
With no signs of China reopening during President Xi Jinping’s recent attendance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok, Sisdivachr said it will take a while before overall performance improves.