Industry eyes a portion of the 700,000-plus direct-to-Phuket Russian arrivals over a five-month period (November-March) as the so-called “snowbirds” plan their return
Tourism stakeholders in Phuket are heralding the landmark approval of the Sputnik vaccine by the Thailand’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) that is set to unleash the Russian market on the southern Thai island.
Phuket has for years been a very popular destination with Russian travellers, peaking in 2019 with over 700,000 arrivals in a short five-month period in 2019, all arriving on direct flights from the Russian Federation. A total of 1.4 million Russians visited Phuket in 2019.
The traditional snowbird period from November to March is when temperatures drop severely in Russia and also in many parts of northern Europe, signaling 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, a Bangkok Hospital operated PCR test-centre and acres of open spaces, gardens and lagoons, has already been a beneficiary of the Phuket Sandbox given its safe haven reputation, 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, over 300,000 hotel rooms have been booked up until the end of August by international visitors arriving via the Phuket Sandbox initiative a number expected to rapidly rise as the high season approaches. Scheduled and chartered Russian carriers are expected to arrive in Phuket from October 2021.
Talking about ‘ready-made’ market potential, C9 Hotelworks Managing Director, Bill Barnett said “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.”
Laguna Phuket, in association with Delivering Asia Communications and C9 Hotelworks, will be hosting a special one-hour online virtual event featuring representatives from government, tour operators, hotels and airlines on September 9 at 3pm to discuss the impending arrival of the Russian market to Phuket.