ATOR, whose members include Russian tourism powerhouses Biblio Globus, Coral Travel, Intourist, Natalie Tours, Pegas Touristik and TUI Travel, are reporting that affordable prices are now the key factor determining their clients’ travel decisions and that the industry is taking steps to meet the demand for cheaper options with extra charter flights, seasonal promotions by hotels and shorter duration of stay.
According to ATOR’s analytical service, the average duration of stay for Russians arriving to Thailand on organised tours in August fell to seven to 10 days (compared with 12-14 days last year), while the average price of a tour to Phuket dropped 10-12 per cent to US$700 (about B24,207) from Moscow and to US$500 (about B17,291) from Eastern Russia.
“More and more often it is the budget, not the weather, that determines the choice of destination by tourists. For instance, traditionally Koh Samui used to be popular in summer because of nearly zero rain and storms, but this year the island is less popular than Phuket, where to the contrary the weather is unpredictable, but direct charter flights are available and cheap hotels are aplenty,” says Tatiana Dashkova from ATOR member-company Russian Express.
Ms Dashkova’s colleagues from Intourist believe that direct charter flights by major operators are one of the factors determining Thailand’s rising popularity among Russians in the low season. Transportation costs account for a significant share of a packaged tour price and using charters instead of scheduled flights let operators make their offers cheaper.
Proving this point, several tour operators earlier this year launched new direct flights to Phuket from various Russian cities. Rossiya Airlines now has two charter flights to Thailand per week transporting clients of Biblio Globus/Sayama. Meanwhile, Royal Flight has launched direct charters from Moscow to Phuket for Coral Travel and Sunmar operators, while AZUR air now has four to five flights to Phuket and three flights to Bangkok for ANEX Tour. The latter enjoys clients with an average duration of stay of 11 nights with the average tour price of US$628 (B21,717) per person, ATOR reports.
Phuket is August’s best-sellers in the Russian market followed by Koh Chang and Koh Samui, ATOR members point out.
“The choice of these three particular destination is driven by both availability of wide combined programmes with other destinations and demand for simple beach vacations ‘a la Bounty’ (sic). At the same time tours to Pattaya are losing attractiveness this year resulting in fewer flights to Bangkok,” says a spokesperson for Intourist tour operator.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand expects about one million Russians arrivals to the Kingdom in 2016, up 13% from last year. ATOR members highlight that chances to reach this target hugely depend on several factors, including the number of flights and availability of competing destinations, specifically Egypt.
Flights to Egypt were banned by the Russian government last year due to safety reasons, but Egypt is pushing hard to persuade Russia that northeast African country is ready to accept tourists again. For now Thailand’s key competitor for mass tourists is out of the game, yet it is still unclear when the ban might be lifted.
“Judging from today’s perspective, the numbers of flights [to Thailand] in the winter period of 2016-2017 will be more than enough. Thus ‘last minute’ [affordable] tickets and tours will be aplenty. Of course if no outside force intervenes and makes adjustments to our plans for winter season,” ATOR quotes Intourist’s representatives as saying.