Thailand: Russian visitors effected by weak rubel

Bangkok – The number of Russian tourists who visited Thailand has drastically dropped due to a critical fall of the Russian ruble, according to a leading hotelier here.

In an interview with the Chinese news agency Xinhua, Thai Hotels Association Eastern Chapter President Sanpech Supabowornsthian said that the number of Russian visitors has dropped by as much as 70 percent during the high season, beginning from December until mid-January as the ruble has lost more than 50 percent of its value against the dollar since the start of the year.

In Pattaya, in particular, hotel occupancy and booking volumes for Russian tourists have dropped by more than 70 percent while travelers from other countries have largely remained unchanged for the time being, Sanpech said.

The number of Russian tourists to Vietnam’s major tourist spots such as Danang and Ho Chi Minh City has also sharply declined due to the falling ruble, he added.

Vietnam has attracted a large number of Russian tourists from Pattaya and other Thai tourist spots over the past years. The Russian travelers largely prefer to stay at tropical beach resorts.

“It might take a few years time for Russia’s economy and ruble to recover before Russian tourists return to Pattaya, Phuket or other Thai tourists spots”, Sanpech said.

According to Sanpech, there used to be as many as 100,000 Russians spending Christmas and the New Year in Thai tourist spots. “Now, the number has dwindled considerably even at this time of the year which is the peak season,” he said.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) earlier forecast that some 2 million Russians would visit Thailand throughout this year but statistics so far indicated that no more than 1.5 million Russians would have visited the country for the whole year, Sanpech said.

Apart from tourist industry, the falling ruble has not affected trade and investment relations between Thailand and Russia, which have remained in low volumes so far.

Though the Thai authorities have planned to attract more tourists from Eastern Europe to Thailand to make up for the sharp drop in the number of Russian travelers, not so many will come as earlier expected, given the unfavorable economic conditions in that part of the world, Sanpech said.

In the meantime, the number of tourists from Asian countries including China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and India to Pattaya and other Thai tourist spots have gradually increased, he said.

About 4.3 million Chinese are expected to visit Thailand throughout this year, according to TAT.

“The Russians would still pick Pattaya and Phuket as their top destinations but they are not having as much money as they used to. But the Russians would almost certainly come back after their country’s economy recovers and the ruble would strengthen, probably in the next few years,” he said.

He added that more European tourists have obviously preferred to stay at serviced apartments or small hotels instead of first- class or chain hotels throughout Pattaya since the formers are located relatively close to major streets and shopping arcades, besides offering cheaper room rates. Source: Xinhua