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Russian tourists head for Thailand despite political turmoil

March 18, 2014, 17:44 UTC+3 BANGKOK
Tourism has been one of the main sources of income for Thailand. This year the sector is forecast to have a volume of more than $40 billion
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Protesters in Bangkok

Protesters in Bangkok

© EPA/NARONG SANGNAK

BANGKOK, March 18. /ITAR-TASS/. Tourist flow from Russia to Thailand has increased in the recent months despite the wobbly political situation in the kingdom, Deputy Honorary Consul of Russia to the Thai provinces of Chonburi and Rayong Viktor Kriventsov told Itar-Tass.

“Official last-year results are yet to be released, but we can say for sure there has been no ebb in the tourist flow. On the contrary, we are observing growth,” said Kriventsov. According to the trade representation’s estimates, about 1.5 million Russian visited Thailand, while the Thai side estimates the number at 1.8 million.

The period between November and March is high season in Thailand, when the weather is most favorable for beach holidays.

“According to our estimates, the number of Russian tourists increased 25% during the latest last high season,” said Sales Director of the tourist company SAYAMA Travel Valentina Malaya. However, she noted a decline in “the quality of the tourist flow” saying people opted for increasingly cheaper tours with less “stars”.

Natalie Tours’ representative in Thailand Georgy Bondarenko also mentioned a noticeable market shift towards low budget holidays.

“Last year our market was seriously influenced by China. Chinese tourists became less interested in Thailand. This released a huge accommodation stock, mostly budget rooms, which was a strong stimulus for the Russian market,” said Bondarenko.

Experts say the seaside city of Phatthaya and Phuket Island remain the key destinations for Russians. The number of tourists coming to the resorts has recently become equal. As for Russian companies’ position on the local market, their rating was released last week by the Royal Cliff group of hotels that was among the first to start cooperating with Russian tour businesses.

“This rating has been compiled annually for about 12 years and reflects the overall market situation,” said Kriventsov. According to the latest rating, the top three tour operators are Tez Tour, SAYAMA Travel and Odeon Tours.

Meanwhile, the overall situation in tourism is not as bright, the Thai government says. The sector lost about $1.5 billion in the first quarter of this year alone, while the foreign tourist flow is expected to shrink by 1 million, reports the Tourism Council of Thailand. According to the organization’s president Piyaman Techapaiboon, if protests accompanied with emergency rule and roadblocks continue into the second quarter, the sector will lose $1 billion more. Local operators should focus on the development of the domestic market to mend the situation, she said.

Tourism has been one of the main sources of income for Thailand. This year the sector is forecast to have a volume of more than $40 billion. Yet such figures are hardly achievable amid the political crisis, believes the Tourism Council.

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