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Bangkok Post - TAT targets 2m Russian visitors next year as flights increase
TAT targets 2m Russian visitors next year as flights increase
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TAT targets 2m Russian visitors next year as flights increase

Russian tourists walk through the airport upon arrival in Phuket. (File photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)
Russian tourists walk through the airport upon arrival in Phuket. (File photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is hoping to secure 2 million Russian tourists next year, a fresh high for the market, driven by an increase in the number of flights and Thailand's neutral stance towards the Russia-Ukraine war.

Khanittha Phanworawat, director of TAT's Moscow office, said that if Thailand maintains the perception of being a friendly country among Russian travellers, it would be possible to reach the goal, particularly if other countries maintain their sanctions against Russia.

Prior to the war with Ukraine, Russian tourists typically chose European destinations for their summer holidays, but now they travel to Thailand all year round, not only during the high season, said Ms Khanittha.

She said Thailand remains the leading destination for Russians, most of whom are in the high spending segment with longer lengths of stay.

Since the beginning of the year, Thailand has received more than 840,000 Russian visitors, ranking among the top five countries. Ms Khanittha said the total number could reach 1.3 million or even match the 1.48 million recorded in 2019.

The resumption of flights between Thailand and Europe, including Russia, is estimated to have reached around 70% of the level recorded in 2019 during this year's hot season. It is expected to increase even in the upcoming high (cool) season, according to Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas.

According to Russia's Federal Border Guard Service and Thailand's Immigration Bureau, Thailand was ranked in the top five outbound destinations for Russians, with 435,000 tourists arriving in 2022.

The countries with the largest number of Russian visitors were Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, accounting for about 3.7 million, 900,000 and 760,000 visitors, respectively.

However, challenges remain, such as the capacity of Russian carriers, which still do not have enough aircraft to serve direct flights.

The economic sanctions against Russia have affected aviation insurance for Russian aircraft and consequently impacted airlines' efforts to expand their services, said Ms Khanittha.

Many Thai airlines are unable to help fill this gap, as they prefer to concentrate on short-haul flights.

TAT will focus on driving tourism demand through new segments. A larger market size would encourage more airlines to expand routes operating between Thailand and Russia.

Key segments include leisure travellers, who favour beaches, those looking for adventure travel, health and wellness tourists, and honeymooners.

While waiting for more direct flights, TAT has to promote Thai tourism via connecting flights, which use the Middle East as an aviation hub.

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