Lack of direct flights a major hurdle for return of Russian tourists
Six major tourism operators have said they could woo some 450,000 Russian tourists to visit Thailand this year, but the lack of direct flights could instead drive them to visit Vietnam and the Middle East.
Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said on Tuesday that he had held a meeting with the six tourism operators and they affirmed that they could woo at least 450,000 customers in the high season from October to December.
The six operators are: Exotic Voyage, Pegas, Anex, Odeon, Sayama and Tez.
Yuthasak said the six tourism operators found that more Russian tourists wanted to visit Thailand, especially those from eastern Russia, such as Novosibirsk and Vladivostok.
But Yuthasak said the lack of direct flights would be an impediment to meet the target of one million Russian tourists visiting the country this year.
“The main problem is that there have been no direct flights from Russia to Thailand since the Covid-19 pandemic started,” Yutthasak said.
From January 1 to June 24, only 65,541 Russian tourists have visited Thailand, far below the TAT’s target of one million.
Yuthasak said the TAT has been trying to find direct flights between the two countries and it has learned from Thai AirAsia X that it is interested to provide charter flights for Russian tourists by coordinating with the tourism operators.
The TAT governor said Thai AirAsia X has asked for more time to study the insurance implications, plane sizes and appropriate routes before it would hold separate meetings with each tourism operator.
Yuthasak said the airline would update the TAT about its decisions next week.
“The TAT is willing to provide promotions with the airline and tourism operators and we are ready to coordinate with state agencies for all state clearances,” Yuthasak said.
Exotic Voyage managing director Sathirapong na Takuathung said Thailand would lose its prospective tourists to Vietnam if there were no direct flights between Thailand and Russia.
He said VietJet Air is now seeking permission to operate direct flights between Vietnam and the Russian cities of Novosibirsk, Vladivostok and Krasnoyarsk.
“Once Russian tourists turn to Vietnam, Thailand will lose a big tourism market,” Sathirapong said.
He said Russian tourists used to pay only 30,000 to 40,000 baht for round trips between Thailand and Russia but the fare has now shot up more three times to 100,000 baht because they had to make transit flights in the Middle East.
“Many of them decided to visit the Middle East instead, as a result only some 1,000 are visiting Thailand each month,” Sathirapong added.
He said the tourism firms would like to ask for cooperation from all sides to provide direct flights to facilitate tourist arrivals from Russia.