THAILAND has benefited the most from a deluge of tourists from East Europe into South-east Asia, with Phuket receiving over 650,000 Eastern European visitors spending US$1.2 billion last year.
The country welcomed 1.6 million visitors from East Europe, led by Russia, contributing 82 per cent of the total figure, according to market research by C9 Hotelworks.
Figures from last year are a far cry from 2005’s 175,000 visitors to Thailand, thanks to a visa exemption implemented in 2007 and sustained economic growth in East Europe. Phuket has also been aided by rising airlift. Charter flights catered to 56 per cent of total passengers last year, according to the report.
Bill Barnett, managing director, C9 Hotelworks, said: “Phuket has seen this business (from East Europe) build up over the past four years with a 42 per cent compound annual growth rate. This rapid acceleration has turned the tables upside down on the once dominant Western European market.”
However, C9 Hotelworks’ research noted that the Eastern European market was highly seasonal, flocking to Thailand only between October and April.
Barnett also pointed out that while Phuket’s airlift impact has shown “little signs of slowing down in 2013”, Bali, on the other hand, is seeing a slowdown in its Eastern European market due to no direct scheduled service from Russia.
Last year, Russia’s outbound market into South-east Asia leapt by over 1.8 million arrivals. A whopping 71 per cent visited Thailand, followed by Vietnam with nine per cent, Indonesia and Cambodia with five per cent each, and Singapore with four per cent.