According to GlobalData forecasts, Russian visitation to Thailand in 2022 is set to increase by 4421% year-on-year (YoY).

Although Russian visitation to Thailand is predicted to only be at 29.2% of pre-pandemic (2019) levels in 2022, the projected jump from 10,000 visits in 2021, to 435,000 in 2022 hints to the fact that many Russians will be swapping sunny European destinations for beach holidays in Thailand this year. When looking at Cyprus, a top outbound destination for Russians prior to the crisis, visitation to the island nation is projected to drop by 42.6% YoY in 2022. Thailand could now potentially cater for many of these Russian visitors that now deem the logistics of travelling in Europe too difficult.

In 2022, Thailand is set to fully reopen its borders to international tourists, with no need for a negative pre-departure PCR test. Additionally, it has not placed any restrictions on Russia concerning the ongoing geopolitical crisis with Ukraine and has a tourism product that is naturally attractive to Russian travellers. These factors will likely combine to create a stiff YoY increase in Russian visitation to Thailand in 2022.

Thailand looks to be the ideal substitute

According to GlobalData’s Q3 2021 Consumer Survey, 61% of Russian respondents stated they typically take sun and beach trips, with this type of trip being the most popular for this market. Thailand is world-renowned for its sun and beach product, with locations such as Maya Beach and Monkey Bay attracting tourists from across the globe. Cultural trips are also popular with this market, with 39% of Russians stating they typically undertake this type of holiday. The highly unique culture in Thailand acts as a significant pull factor for international tourists with its Thai temples and palaces.

Tourism ministers in Thailand must now ensure they can capitalise on this demand by increasing direct flights from Russia, and ensuring aspects such as card payments can be accommodated across tourist hotspots, with Mastercard and Visa suspending services in Russia. In May 2022, Thailand’s Minister of Commerce stated that Thai banks had displayed interest in Russia’s proposal to introduce the Mir payment system for Russian travellers in Thailand and pledged to coordinate with the appropriate Tourism and Transport ministries to facilitate direct flights from Russia. This comment demonstrates that Thailand has acknowledged it now has a key opportunity to become a major destination for Russian travellers in the coming years.

With Russian travellers spending a total of $22.5bn in 2021, which put Russia in the top ten globally for total outbound tourist expenditure, Thailand could benefit significantly from the EU’s ban on Russian travel as the market is forced to change its preferred destinations due to the ongoing crisis.