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Russian tour operators report declined demand for Thai tours

October 25, 2011, 19:21 UTC+3

Russian tour operators report a decline in tourists wishing to visit flood-stricken Thailand

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MOSCOW, October 25 (Itar-Tass) —— Russian tour operators report a decline in tourists wishing to visit flood-stricken Thailand, a source at the Association of Russian Tour Operators said on Tuesday.

“Despite the comforting report of the Russian Foreign Ministry that the flood has spared popular resorts, tour operators report a decline in the number of tourists going to Thailand,” the source said.

“Company offices in Bangkok and Pattaya issue regular reports,” Pegas Touristik General Director Anna Podgornaya said. “According to them, the northern areas of Bangkok are flooded. About 200 representatives of tour operators are taking part in an advertisement tour in Thailand at the moment. They are not interested in distorting information, so their impressions can be trusted.”

“The advertisement tour program was not changed. It rains sometimes in the region, and some days are sunny. No one plans to cut short the tour,” he said.

“All the airports of Thailand, including the one in Bangkok, are intact amid the flood and operate in the regular regime,” a source at the Russian Union of Travel Industry said. “The Bangkok Airport has substantial anti-flood systems, which can handle even larger floods,” the source said. In his words, the national government does not think it necessary to use the systems right now, but the situation is being monitored closely.

The Russian embassy in Thailand has no information about Russian citizens possibly hurt in the flood, an embassy source told Itar-Tass on Sunday.

The embassy is closely monitoring the situation, including that in Bangkok, he said.

Russians appeal to the embassy for information only, in particular, they are interested in the situation in resorts. The embassy maintains permanent contact with the local authorities.

The Russian Foreign Ministry recommends the Russians visiting Thailand to stay away from flood zones and to select their routes carefully.

“The flood caused by long and heavy rains in the central and eastern areas of Thailand has led to a critical situation. Northern sectors of Bangkok are flooded, and there is a flood in some other neighborhoods of the Thai capital city. The local authorities are working on the provision of people’s security and strengthening the dams around the megalopolis,” the ministry said in the beginning of last week.

“The situation in the popular tourist centers – Pattaya, Phuket, Samui and Chiang – causes no worries. There is no flood hazard there now. The central international airport of Bangkok operates in the regular mode,” it said.

“No serious flood-induced accidents with Russian citizens have been reported,” the ministry said back then.

On Monday the ministry once again recommended the tourists to consider their trips to Thailand very carefully. “The flood-stricken area is growing, in particular, into some areas of Bangkok. There have been no flood accidents involving Russian citizens, and the central international airport of Bangkok operates in the regular regime so far. At the same time, the situation remains serious.”

According to the official information, the flood may last for another four to six weeks.

The rain, which has not stopped since July, flooded two-thirds of the Thai provinces. Specialists said this is the most powerful flood in the past decade.

The tour industry says that the interest of Russian tourists in vacations in Thailand has grown in recent years. Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Samui and Krabi are the most popular tourist destinations.

The Federal Tourism Agency said that 233,113 Russians visited Thailand last year, which was nearly 30,000 tourists more than in 2009.

More than 6 million Russian tourists spend vacations abroad in the first half of this year, the Association of Russian Tour Operators said with the reference to data from the Federal State Statistic Service in early September.

The total number of Russians who made foreign trips in that period exceeded 18 million, which was 15% more than in January-June 2010, the Association said.

About 70% of all trips were made to countries outside the former Soviet Union territory, and the rest were made to CIS member states. Over 50% of all trips were made with personal invitations, and slightly more than 30% of all travelers were tourists.

According to the Association, the most popular destinations in the first half of 2011 were Turkey (visited by more than one million Russians) and China (over 600,000 tourists). Egypt ranked third with about 500,000 Russian tourists.

The altered situation in Egypt influenced preferences of Russian tourists, the Association said. “Due to the travel alert for Egypt, many tourism destinations showed unprecedented dynamics. For instance, the number of tourists visiting Cuba doubled to 46,000, while the number of tourists that preferred vacations in the Dominican Republic grew by almost 60% to 52,000,” the Association said.

The number of foreign tourists in Russia grew in the first half of the year, the Association said. Some 11.5 million citizens of 212 states visited Russia in that period, which was 14% more than last year. Only 7% of the foreign visitors were tourists, the Association said.

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