Aeroflot Russian Airlines Flight SU274 from Sheremetyevo International Airport landed at 8:50am.
Waiting at Gate 11 to welcome the arrivals were Phuket Vice Governor Phichet Panaphong, Phuket International Airport General Manager Monchai Tanode along with a host of representatives from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket office and other government agencies.
According to the post by AoT Phuket announcing the arrival, the passengers comprised the first from Russia to arrive in Phuket under the Test & Go** scheme, as well as others arriving under the Phuket Sandbox scheme.
The arrival of the Russian tourists follows Vladimir V. Sosnov, Consul General of the Russian Federation for Phuket Province, meeting with Vice Governor Pichet early last month to discuss the prospect of Russian tourists returning to visit the island.
At that time V/Gov Pichet noted that only 496 Russian tourists had travelled to Phuket under the Phuket Sandbox project since Sept 1.
Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, President of the Phuket Tourist Association, has marked that Russian tourists will play a major part in Phuket’s tourism recovery.
Mr Bhummikitti said that even though Russia had recently seen spiking caseloads of infections, Phuket had confidence in its safety protocols, with only 0.3% of Sandbox arrivals testing positive for the virus over the past four months.
“After November 15, there will be an increase in the number of countries that can travel to Sandbox segments,” Mr Bhummikitti said.
At present, 825 international flights from 17 airlines are scheduled to arrive in Phuket in November, compared with 562 flights from 11 airlines in October, he explained.
Considering the expansion in the number of flights and load factors for each flight, local tourism operators believe that Phuket would expect to receive 300,000 visitors throughout December, giving an average of 10,000 visitors a day, Mr Bhummikitti said.
“The occupancy rate this month could gradually improve to 25-30% from 18-20% in October, before increasing to 35% in December,” he said.
Mr Bhummitkitti remained optimistic, yet cautious, over the current forecasts, which predict a significant recovery for Phuket’s tourism industry next year.
“We’ll have to look at it a bit longer. I think it might take another two weeks in order to have more clarity,” he said.
European source markets at this stage seemed to be more likely to return as travel restrictions there are eased and as they enter their winter months, Mr Bhummikitti said.
** The Phuket News has yet to see Russia reported as added to the list of 63 countries and territories allowed as departues of origin for the Test & Go scheme. See the list of countries as reported by the TAT here.