Bangkok (Times Of Ocean)- The war in Ukraine has left thousands of Russian tourists stranded in Thailand’s beach resorts, unable to pay their bills and unable to return home because of sanctions and canceled flights.
As a result of the crisis in Europe, Southeast Asian nation’s tourism industry was also hindered as it had hosted more Russian tourists than any of its neighbors before the pandemic.
Approximately 6,500 Russian tourists remain in Phuket, Surat Thani, Krabi, and Pattaya, four popular seaside resort destinations in Thailand, along with 1,000 Ukrainians, Yuthasak Supasorn, the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s governor, told The Associated Press on Friday.
As of February, 17,599 Russians composed 8.6% of all new arrivals, bringing the total to 203,970, according to the Public Health Ministry. A drastic decrease in their numbers took place after the Feb. 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Yuthasak said the Russians were facing two main problems: flight cancellations 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 Moscow. Some people prefer to delay their return.
“There are some airlines that still fly to Russia, but travelers have to transit in another country. We are trying to coordinate and search the flights for them,” Yuthasak said.
Even though almost all direct flights from Russia have been suspended, connections are still available through major Middle Eastern carriers.
There are also efforts underway to find alternative methods of payment for Russian tourists, he said.
Siwaporn Boonruang, a volunteer translator for Russians stranded in Krabi, said some can’t pay their bills because they can’t use Visa or Mastercard credit cards anymore.
People with UnionPay credit cards, which are issued by a Chinese financial services company, are still able to use them, but cryptocurrency payments are not permitted, she said.
Discounted rates have been offered by many hotels, she said.
Thailand’s government has offered 30-day visa extensions on a no-fee basis, and is seeking low-cost alternative housing for those forced to stay for an extended period.
Thailand’s hopes for economic recovery have been thwarted by the problems associated with the war in Ukraine. Officials hope the COVID-19 pandemic will fade by July, despite daily cases being at a record high due to the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
By the end of this year, Thai authorities plan to drop most quarantine and testing regulations, making entry easier for foreign travelers.
Due to the knock-on effect of rising oil prices and inflation on global travel, Thailand may have to lower its target for tourist arrivals and revenues this year, Yuthasak told the Bangkok Post.
“Tourism is still a key engine to revive our economy, even though revenue was stymied by negative factors,” he said.
It had been estimated that Thailand would gain a total of 1.28 trillion baht ($38.4 billion) in revenue this year from foreign and domestic tourists. Sanctions