Thai tourism hopes to add 500,000 Russian visitors to its 1 million international tourists this year after the Sputnik V vaccine was endorsed for the sandbox programme, says the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
"Russia was one of our tourism sources with 1.4 million visitors prior to the pandemic. An influx of Russian tourists to Greece and Turkey amid the pandemic proves that there's demand from this market," said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
He said the agency made an earlier forecast of 1.2 million international tourists this year, but due to a resurgence of Covid-19 everywhere, the total number may drop to 1 million.
After the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) allowed tourists who have been vaccinated with Sputnik V to visit sandbox destinations, TAT hopes to lure at least 500,000 Russian tourists this year which will help beef up total foreign visitors to 1 million.
He said the Department of Disease Control is poised to endorse CCSA's order by the end of this month.
Besides 20 million people in Russia who have been vaccinated with Sputnik V, more than 3.7 billion people in 69 countries globally also received the same vaccine, including potential markets like Vietnam.
Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said the Russians are expected to visit sandbox areas by October at the earliest as chartered flights will need one month to prepare operations and group bookings.
The TAT will also contact other airlines to arrange scheduled flights to Phuket as 50% of Russians, mostly individual travellers, book their own tickets.
As the CCSA set the green light for the 7+7 extension from Phuket, TAT will discuss with Bangkok Airways the possibility of resuming flights from Phuket to Samui after they were halted during the semi-lockdown nationwide.
The TAT will continue working on travel bubble discussions with Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, while seeking more potential areas in the eastern region to join the extension scheme, such as Koh Lan in Chon Buri and Koh Chang and Koh Kut in Trat which can connect via U-tapao airport.
In terms of the domestic market, the agency will roll out two stimulus campaigns within this year to comply with the deadline of rehabilitation budget.
We Travel Together, a hotel subsidy scheme, and Tour Teaw Thai, a 40% subsidy on domestic tour packages of up to 5,000 baht, should continue in restricted areas that are safe to travel.