Phuket readies to welcome Russian tourists with nod for Sputnik vaccine


Tourism stakeholders in Phuket are anticipating the return of Russian tourists to the southern Thai island, following the approval of the Sputnik vaccine by the Thailand’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

Phuket has for years been a very popular destination with Russian travellers, peaking in 2019 with more than 700,000 arrivals over a short five-month period, all arriving on direct flights from Russia. A total of 1.4 million Russians visited Phuket in 2019.

Laguna Phuket
Laguna Phuket, home to seven hotels in Bangtao Beach, is set to benefit from the impending arrivals from Russia 

The traditional snowbird period from November to March is when temperatures drop severely in Russia and also in many parts of northern Europe, signalling travelers to take flight for the tropical chimes and clear blue skies of Phuket.

“This is great news for Phuket. It’s time to go beyond the Sandbox and build a foundation for a broader tourism initiative,” said Phuket Tourist Association president, Bhummikitti Ruktaengam. “The industry can now get back to basics and focus on the northern European winter season. This is a big opportunity for Phuket. These are our legacy markets.”

Laguna Phuket, an integrated destination in the popular Bangtao Beach area, consisting of seven hotels and a Bangkok Hospital-operated PCR test centre, has already been a beneficiary of the Phuket Sandbox, but this is a major step up, according to its managing director, Ravi Chandran.

“The acceptance of the Sputnik vaccine is a game-changer for Phuket,” he said. “The outbound Russian market is the biggest one in the world outside of China and the timing is perfect with the high season starting in November this year. Phuket Sandbox has proven to be a success and this will now take these achievements to greater heights still for all hotels, tourism stakeholders and the local community on the island.”

Since July 1, more than 300,000 hotel rooms have been booked up until the end of August by international visitors arriving via the Phuket Sandbox initiative. The number of foreign tourists is expected to rapidly rise as the high season approaches, with scheduled and chartered Russian carriers set to arrive in Phuket from October 2021.

Russian Arrivals in Phuket Graph

Talking about ‘ready-made’ market potential, C9 Hotelworks managing director, Bill Barnett, said that “coming into the 2021 winter wonderland, and changing marketplace, the Russians, who typically have a 11-12-night average length of stay, are a perfect fit for the Sandbox.”

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