Thousands of Russian tourists are in distress in Thailand: they cannot return home

Thousands of Russian tourists in distress in Thailand: they cannot return home

For several thousand Russian tourists, Thailand's tropical resort paradise has become a trap as unprecedented Western sanctions left them with no money and no way to fly home. The catastrophic situation is also confirmed by the Thai authorities, who have offered travelers some support measures.

Flight cancellations, the fall of the ruble and payment problems at Russian banks cut off from the global SWIFT system have left more than 7,000 Russians and Ukrainians in limbo in four tourist regions, including Phuket, Samui, Pattaya and Krabi.

“We must be good hosts and take care of everyone,” Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters. According to him, Russian tourists continue to arrive at Thai resorts.

In 2019, 1.4 million Russians visited Thailand. Last January there were about 23,000 Russian tourists, which is about a fifth of the total number of arrivals. About half of them are stranded on the main Thai island of Phuket.

What help is the Thai government providing?

  1. To mitigate the effects of the sanctions and the problems caused by them , tourists were offered a free 30-day visa extension.
  2. With tourists unable to return home due to suspended flights and political unrest, Thai authorities are planning to provide them with temporary shelter. “We have asked hotels to lower prices and extend their stay,” said Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourism Association.
  3. As for financial transactions through Russian banks and blocked cards of Russians, Thai operators suggested using the Chinese payment system UnionPay after cards issued by Russian banks using the American payment systems Visa and Mastercard announced the suspension of their activities in Russia. For most Russian tourists and banks, UnionPay is a new platform, so it will take some time to issue a new card, even a virtual one, based on it.
  4. Travel associations have also suggested that the government consider using cryptocurrencies to allow tourists to have another alternative payment system in this situation and similar crises in the future. This is useful for paying for hotel stays, buying airline tickets and other services.

Stranded tourists in distress have another problem: health insurance. Some private hospitals are reluctant to offer medical services to Russian coronavirus patients due to financial sanctions and the inability to pay for services. However, the official noted that the government should find an optimal solution to the issue so that patients receive proper treatment if necessary.The Russian consulate in Phuket is reportedly providing assistance to Russian citizens stranded on the island and unable to fly home. Earlier, two major airlines that deliver Russian tourists to Phuket – S7 and Aeroflot – suspended all flights to and from the island. This is also due to the fact that many Russian airlines have decided to stop all flights outside the Russian sky, since most of the air fleet is leased and can be confiscated upon landing under sanctions imposed in connection with the start of a special operation in Ukraine.

Russian travelers who are stranded and unable to secure a forced long stay in Thai resorts while waiting for an export flight are offered to get home on their own through a third country, the consulate acknowledged.

“Unfortunately, coordinating special flights is a lengthy process. Therefore, if you have the opportunity and do not have time to wait, the fastest and best option is to take a ticket through third countries on your own, the notice said.

Phuket Tourism Association President Bhummikitty Raktaengam said the flight cancellations have definitely affected the Russian market as their direct routes cover most of Russia, sharing about 70% of that market with Phuket. From March 1 to March 6, Russia was the market leader in Andaman resorts – there were 3,500 tourists. The average length of their stay was 10 days. While 30% of the Russian market flies through the Middle East, amid the turmoil, most of them may have to cancel their trips due to rising costs – high exchange rates and sanctions are making travel much more expensive for Russians.

Thailand's position on the current situation in Ukraine

Although Thailand was among the 141 countries that supported the UN resolution that called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and the end of the special operation, no sanctions against Moscow he did not enter.

“An escalation of the situation will have broader implications for the entire world, exacerbate the humanitarian situation and threaten the well-being of the global economy, hindering the fragile recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Permanent Representative of Thailand to the UN said in a statement.

The authorities supported a proposal for negotiations and a peaceful settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict through the UN, regional mechanisms and other mutually acceptable platforms.

For those who care about a healthy lifestyle, we recommend reading: “Farm salmon or wild: doctors revealed which fish safer to eat.”

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