As a result of the Ukraine conflict, thousands of Russian visitors have been stuck in Thailand’s beach resorts. Many of them are unable to pay their hotel bills or return back home as a result of sanctions and delayed flight schedules.
The issue in Europe has also thrown a kink in the recovery plans for the tourist sector in the Southeast Asian country, which had welcomed more visitors from Russia than any of its neighbors prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus there.
According to Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Department, there are around 6,500 Russian visitors trapped in Phuket, Surat Thani, Krabi, and Pattaya, four provinces that are renowned coastal resort locations, in addition to 1,000 Ukrainian tourists.
A total of 203,970 people arrived in February, with 17,599 Russians accounting for the biggest group of arrivals, or 8.6 percent, according to the Public Health Ministry. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, their numbers plummeted dramatically.
Yuthasak stated that the Russians are confronted with two major issues: the cancellation of their flights home by airlines that have stopped flying to Russia, and the suspension of financial services, particularly by credit card companies that have joined the sanctions against the Russian government. Some people choose to put off their return until a later date.
“There are still certain airlines that operate flights to Russia, but passengers must transit via another nation.” “We are attempting to coordinate and search for planes in order to locate them,” Yuthasak said.
As a result of the suspension of practically all direct flights from Russia, connections are still accessible via major airlines operating in the Middle East.
He also said that attempts are being made to identify other ways of payment for Russian visitors, which are now unavailable.
As reported by Siwaporn Boonruang, a volunteer translator for Russians who are trapped in Krabi, some of the Russians are unable to pay their bills since they are unable to use Visa or Mastercard credit cards anymore.
A large number of people have cash, and those who have UnionPay credit cards, which are issued by a Chinese financial services business, may continue to use them, she added. However, payment by cryptocurrencies is not permitted.
She went on to say that several hotels had stepped forward to assist by giving lower prices.
Thailand’s government has granted free 30-day visa extensions to those who need to remain for an extended amount of time, and it is working to locate low-cost alternative housing for those who are obliged to stay for an extended period of time.
Thailand’s expectations for economic recovery have been hampered by the challenges related with the Ukrainian conflict. Officials expect the COVID-19 pandemic to be over by July, despite the fact that daily instances are at record highs due to the omicron version of the coronavirus, which is causing the outbreak to be exacerbated.
Thai officials intend to repeal the majority of the quarantine and testing measures that have been in place to combat the spread of the virus by the end of the year, making admission into the country simpler for international visitors.
According to Yuthasak, who was reported in the Bangkok Post daily as stating that Thailand may have to cut its objectives for tourist arrivals and income this year due to the knock-on effects of increased oil costs and inflation on worldwide travel.
Although income has been stalled by unfavorable conditions, “tourism remains a critical engine for the recovery of our economy,” he said.
Tourism earnings in Thailand is expected to reach 1.28 trillion baht ($38.4 billion) this year, according to a research. This includes both international and local travelers.