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Russians abandoning home resorts for Thailand

August 13, 2013

Thai resorts are now firmly at the top of the Russian tourists’ favourite destinations. Unlike Turkey, the holiday season in Thailand lasts all year round. And unlike Egypt, the country is not prone to outbursts of political violence.

TASS_182789-thai-468People in Thailand are known for their hospitality, and they are glad to see the numbers of tourists from Russia soar – not least because Russians have earned themselves a reputation as big spenders.

According to the Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports, in 2012 Russians vacationing in Thailand spent 897 million dollars – which is more than tourists from any other country. The figure is set to grow even further. 

In the first half of 2012 the numbers of Russians arriving in Thailand rose by 35 per cent.  

There is, however, another side to this coin. Many people in Thailand find the Russians’ habits and behaviour in their country objectionable. 

Russians always have the money to spend, and they prefer to pay cash. But they like to drink lots of alcohol right beside the swimming pool, and once they get drunk enough, they often start tossing the empty bottles right into the pool,” says one man working for a hotel in Pattaya, a popular beach resort

Anger at this sort of behaviour by visitors from Russia reached its peak in January 2013, when hundreds of locals on the island of Phuket staged protests.

Another important thing to take into account is that many expats from the former Soviet countries have come to work in the Thai tourism industry. That is why tourists from Russia increasingly prefer to use Russian-owned or Russian-staffed cafes and taxi services, finding it easier to explain their needs in the Russian language.

When Russian tourists go to town, they always give their custom to Russian-speaking service providers,” the protesters complained. “The Russian-speaking staff also speak badly of us, saying that we are not very well behaved, and that we always try to cheat the tourists.”

But the protests died down very soon; after all, the problems created by visitors from Russia are nothing compared to the prospect of losing tourists, who are Thailand’s main source of income.

In addition, the numbers of Europeans flocking to Thai resorts has fallen sharply in recent months. Bookings from Europe for the winter season have plunged by as much as 50 per cent.

Hit by a protracted economic crisis, Europeans increasingly choose to spend their holidays at home. Expensive five-star hotels have been especially hard-hit. Were it not for tourists from Russia, luxury beachside bungalows would have been empty this season.

Meanwhile, the locals in Thailand are gradually learning to rub along with their boisterous guests. Many have begun to learn the Russian language. There are shop signs in Russian on every street corner in the famous resorts of Pattaya and Phuket, and many shop owners speak a decent Russian.

For all their complaints about Russian tourists, the Thai locals still say the worst visitors to their country are from the United States. In their opinion, the Americans are too noisy, and not really interested in the local culture or customs. Besides, they want all their food served with ketchup, just like in American restaurants.

The article was initially published at the Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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