Phuket Sees Eastern European Tourism Boom

Eastern European tourists are driving the current tourism boom to Thailand in general and Phuket specifically, a recent report declares.

According to newly released market research by consulting firm C9 Hotelworks, Russia’s outbound market to Southeast Asia shot up to over 1.8 million in 2012. Over 71 percent of travellers visited Thailand, followed by Vietnam with 9 percent and 5 percent for both Indonesia and Cambodia. This upturn is part of a general trend from Eastern European countries with over 1.6 million tourists visiting Thailand from that region.

Nowhere is the impact more apparent than the holiday destination of Phuket which has experienced, as over 650,000 Eastern European tourists injected US$1.2 billion into the island’s economy last year.

“Phuket has seen this business build up over the past four years with a 42 percent compound annual growth rate,” says C9’s Managing Director Bill Barnett. “This rapid acceleration has turned the tables upside down on the once dominant Western European market. The shift is now on display day in and day out on the resort island where mounting numbers of charter flights and tour buses are a constant reminder of a changing world.”

Leading the transformation has been Phuket’s rising airlift punctuated by its key strategic door-to-door travel time with charter flights catering to 56 percent of total passengers last year.

“While Phuket with its airlift impact has shown little sign of slowing down in 2013, Bali’s seeing a slow down as its Eastern European market has turned melodramatic with no direct scheduled service from Russia,” says Barnett.

The Emerging Eastern European Market report by C9 Hotelworks goes on to highlight that despite the mounting numbers, there is a pronounced seasonal trend, as 80 percent of the “snowbirds” come between October to April, and year-round demand remains elusive as tour operators and airlines redeploy aircraft to the Mediterranean during the summer months.

“Looking forward, there is little doubt that the new Phuket tourism economy is now highly leveraged by the mounting influence of Eastern European visitors. The rapidly changing tourism persona comes at a time when traditional markets continue to retract,” adds Barnett.

“This has triggered stress fractures in local infrastructure support and has created an ongoing controversy over the blending cultures of the new East and the old West. Russian’s now rank in the top three of work permits issued to foreigners on the island. Ultimately despite the visible economic benefits, sentiment remains mixed over what form the future may bring.”

See C9 Hotelworks’ report