Russians were the most visible travelers to Thailand after February 1, 2022, when the Thailand Pass Test & Go option was restarted. Even with its 2 days of pre-booked SHA+ quarantine and PCR tests, plus US$50,000 Covid insurance (which has since been reduced to $20,000), Russian travelers were happy to hop on a plane and make the long journey to the much warmer Land of Smiles.
This situation has now radically changed and the world is feeling the full force of the impact of Russian aggression and the invasion of Ukraine.
Today, there are only a trickle of daily flights between Russia and Suvarnabhumi or Phuket in Thailand. While much of the rest of the world has said “no” to planes arriving from Russia, Thailand is still allowing them to arrive. But even though the planes are still arriving (albeit in drastically reduced numbers), the pressure of global sanctions, bans and the fall of the Russian ruble has already made the decision for all potential Russian travelers.
Now, the latest data from ForwardKeys shows that the Russian invasion of Ukraine, now in its 9th day, caused an instant spike in flight cancellations to and from Russia, worldwide. The day after the first tanks arrived in Ukraine, every reservation made for a trip to Russia was offset by six cancellations of existing reservations.
Russians fleeing their harsh winter and heading to sunnier destinations were suddenly canceling their trips. Cancellation rates between February 24 and 26 were Cyprus (300%), Egypt (234%), Turkey (153%), United Kingdom (153%), Armenia (200%) and the Maldives (165%).
Bookings for March, April and May were already at 32% of pre-Covid travel levels for outbound Russians. They were heading for Mexico, the Seychelles, Egypt and the Maldives. And Thailand.
The outlook for the third quarter of this year looked even better.
All that enthusiasm for Russian travel has now crumbled, and given the hard economic weapons thrown at Vladimir Putin, his banks, his “friends” and his citizens, any recovery will be a long, very long way to go. Even though there was a quick and unexpected reversal of the situation in Ukraine, Russia has already suffered a fatal economic blow – in just one week the country was transformed into a pariah state and much of the rest of the world seems happy to punish the whole country for Putin’s violence.
For countries like Seychelles, Maldives and Cyprus, Russian arrivals made up a high percentage of their international arrivals. In Thailand, this represented about 8% of the total tourism mix. And, while the Chinese are still in China for at least the rest of this year, the loss of the Russian tourist market has likely accounted for an even higher percentage of tourists who will not come to Thailand in 2022.
According to ForwardKeys, before Russia invaded Ukraine, the top twenty most booked destinations by Russian travelers in March, April and May were…. First Turkey, then United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Thailand, Greece, Egypt, Cyprus, Armenia, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Hungary, Bulgaria, Mexico, Spain, Azerbaijan, United States, United Kingdom, Qatar, Italy and Uzbekistan.
The global travel industry will be further impacted by rising airfares (due to the sharp spike in oil prices), itinerary cancellations (across Eastern Europe), greater resistance to international travel (for perceived security reasons) and continued instability in global politics. .
While the Thailand Pass is still seen by many would-be travelers as a significant hurdle in their choice of Thailand as their next travel destination, and with Russian and Chinese travelers tapped off, the immediate future of travel to Thailand looks dark. And it follows nearly 2 years of border closures, false restarts, projections of overrated TAT arrivals and the former Thai tourism workforce returning home to find other work.
The loss of Russian travelers underscores a critical need for the Thai government to quickly modify the Thailand Pass, or scrap it entirely. With so many other factors now making international travel difficult, Thailand will need to rethink its short to medium term tourism strategies to maintain its share of the international travel market.
Of course, there’s no comparison to the ongoing humanitarian tragedy within Ukraine’s borders right now, but Russia’s aggression is likely to have far-reaching and long-term effects that the clear and present danger that it represents for the Ukrainian nation. at present.
THE SOURCE: CNN