From Russia with love
In the last few years, Thailand's resort destinations have been attracting significant amounts of Russian interest. Russian tourists have long been flocking to Pattaya in order to escape the harsh winters. But more recently they have also begun to explore other resort destinations like Koh Samui and Phuket. This year, Russian visitors ranked number 3 in terms of tourism flow to Thailand from Europe. In fact, from January to June, the number of Russian visitors doubled when compared to the same period in 2009.
Russia is the only country that actually showed significant growth in terms of visitor numbers this and according to industry experts, Thailand's political woes actually boosted Russian interest as many agents and individuals saw the opportunity to take advantage of special offers and lower prices, especially compared with rising costs in their own country. Statistics from website research show the number of Russian searches for hotels and private villas in Thailand increased by 85% and this information matches similar increases in the number of requests through travel agents.
For Russians, Thailand is seen as an exotic destination location. The kind climate and coastal splendor are definitely a big draw, but the north also offers the kind of gentle rural scenery that Muscovites appreciate. Russians also enjoy Thai cuisine and appreciate the warm gentle hospitality of the people.
Some companies in Thailand have been quick to capitalize on this new market to compensate for a drop in visitors from other countries. Due to their often limited English language skills, Russian investors often seek out agents or websites that advertise in both English and Russian. In the past, most bookings in Thailand were handled through agents back in Russia, but more recently there has been a significant rise in the number of Russian language agencies and service firms operating in the Kingdom Samui Villas and Homes Ltd, of the country's largest agencies for private villa rentals have a website in Russian and even employ Russian speaking staff to handle enquiries and bookings. "Russian clients now form a substantial part of our business," explained Chief Marketing Officer, Wayne Hue. "They appreciate the privacy of a luxury villa and also have a keen eye for the promotions and special packages we offer. Koh Samui is now a particularly popular destination for Russian visitors because of the fine beaches and year round sunshine."
Russian visitors and investors are not only drawn to Thailand by the low cost of living. High-end visitors from Russia increasingly choose luxury villas for their winter holidays. These clients appreciate the personalised services at a private residence, as well as the stunning beach and mountainside locations on offer. For longer term visitors, the option of studying English in Thailand has also become and appealing choice for Russian families. Some families actually stay in Thailand for extended periods during the winter and put their children into international schools as the equivalent education remains considerably more expensive back in their own country.
Such opportunities have also inspired considerable interest in property investments from Russian buyers. The prices for luxury properties in Thailand remain very affordable by Moscow standards and the opportunity to earn rental yields appeals to Russian investors who plan to share their time between the two countries. The Thai island's are especially popular in this respect. Increased Russian interest in property and villa rentals is certainly boosting the markets on Phuket and Samui.
Russian influence is so prominent in some parts of the country that you can now find magazines published in Russian, restaurants serving traditional Russian cuisine and even Russian Orthodox Churches, one in Bangkok and another in Pattaya. A third church is planned in Phuket, and market analysts say the trend in offering services that appeal to Russian visitors and investors is likely to continue for many years to come.