The number of Russian visitors in Phuket has instantly dropped due to two Russian airlines responsible for a majority of flights to the island stopping their services temporarily due to sanctions imposed by western countries on Russia due to the ongoing Russian invasion into Ukraine.
The President of the Phuket Tourism Association Mr. Bhummikitti Ruktaengam posted on his Facebook, “Two airlines from Russia have paused their services to other areas including Phuket which are S7 – Siberian Airlines and Aeroflot Airlines.”
“The reason that they have paused is because of European and American sanctions which caused airplane rental contracts to be paused too. Some ticket booking system companies have stopped their services. Airspace has been restricted and limited in conflict areas of Ukraine and Russia. So these make ticket bookings more difficult if not outright impossible for citizens of both countries, although there are still some routes in through the UAE.” Bhummikitti stated.
“The number of Russian visitors in Phuket used to be very high and since reopening Thailand to foreign tourists last year with Thailand Pass, Russians have been number one in terms of overall visitors. Most of them used direct flights from Russia and not flights through Dubai or some other Middle Eastern countries which, for now, are still operating although could also be forced to pause soon due to sanction-related issues. As a result, the numbers of Russian visitors have instantly dropped.” Bhummikitti added.
“In addition, due to the sanctions and multiple companies stopping their services for now, including Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, American Express, Wise, Remitly, and bank-related sanctions with SWIFT it has become almost impossible for Russians to access their banks and funds in Russia, leaving a significant number of them stranded without the ability to pay for flights home to Russia or even for hotels or food. There are still some tourists who have managed to access funds through cryptocurrency or small banks not targeted by SWIFT but loopholes and grey areas continue to be closed by Western countries putting pressure on Russia to end the conflict,” Bhummikitti explained.
Bhummikitti did not state exactly how many Russians were “stranded” in Phuket as a result of the sanctions, TPN media notes, but both Samui and Pattaya have reported similar issues with Samui stating hundreds of Russians and Ukrainians, who could not get flights home due to restricted airspace, were facing problems both in getting flights and for Russians financially due to sanctions.
Bhummikitti said that the tourism association and Phuket leaders were working closely with both Russians and Ukrainians on the island who were facing travel and finance problems, as well as working out deals with hotels and Immigration to allow those who could not leave or could not temporarily pay to stay longer. Bhummikitti also stated that the consulates of both countries were working with their citizens to provide solutions and support for those in need.
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