TAT forecasts 2016 Russian rebound
The number of Russian tourist arrivals is expected to bounce back by mid-2016, as Russia's economy will bottom out soon, says the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
The Russian economy has been in recession, worsened by trade sanctions by Western countries, with the rouble weakening by more than 50% against the baht since last December.
The weak rouble has seen the number of Russian tourists visiting Thailand sharply plunge, and this has hurt many destinations including Pattaya, which relies heavily on them.
Russian tourist arrivals hit rock bottom in March with a 59% drop year-on-year.
After that, monthly arrivals have fallen by 35-38% year-on-year since May.
The TAT expects Russian tourist arrivals will bounce back by the middle of next year because the economy in Russia is expected to recover very soon after passing the lowest point, said Tanes Petsuwan, executive director for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Last year, the top five outbound destinations for Russian travellers were Turkey, which welcomed 4.48 million visitors from Russia, followed by Egypt (3 million), China (2.46 million), Thailand (1.6 million) and Finland (1.34 million).
In the first nine months of this year, arrivals from Russia to Thailand declined by 40% year-on-year to 579,462.
The TAT expects to welcome 410,000 in the fourth quarter, which is the high season, bringing full-year arrivals from Russia to 990,000. It hopes the figure will increase to 1.02 million visitors next year.
Mr Tanes said while the TAT was optimistic about the Russian market's improvement next year, it was difficult to envision a repeat of the 1.7 million visitors in 2013.
Currently, the two preferred destinations for Russian travellers, Turkey and Egypt, have many aggressive campaigns to lure back tourists after easing political conflicts.
"The situation is getting tougher. Thailand must review its tourism marketing plan to capture middle- and high-end tourists instead of the mass market like in the past," Mr Tanes said.
Apart from medical and wellness tourism, which are popular with Russian women, the TAT's Moscow office has promoted Thai boxing as a major tourism product to attract Russian travellers.
The recession has caused a lot of Russian travel agents to get out of the business.
There are 15 travel agents in the market including the popular Natalie Tours and Pegas Touristik. The TAT is working closely with all of them.