The road show – to Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk on Aug 5-9 – comprised members from the PTA, government tourism officials as well as the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Moscow office, headed by Anoma Wongyai, a Phuket native who previously served as Director of the Phuket TAT office.
The road show, like many such road shows conducted by the PTA, was funded by the Phuket Provincial Administration organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor).
Ms Anoma pointed out that around 1.47 million Russian tourists traveled to Thailand last year, an increase of about 9% on 2017, and generated an estimated B150 billion revenue for the country as the second-highest revenue-earning source market after China.
Russia also ranks as the seventh-highest source market in terms of the number of tourists to Thailand, and the highest single source market from Europe.
“As can be seen, Russian tourists is a group with high potential of spending,” Ms Anoma said.
However, she added, “Because of Russia’s economic situation and the depreciation of the ruble, the number of tourists in the first six months of 2019 decreased slightly, to 825,556, a decrease of about 3%.
“The TAT has been heavily trying to promote Russian tourists to go Thailand over the past six months by coordinating with various large tour companies, holding events with airlines, and advertising.
“It is expected that by the end of this year, the number of Russian tourist arrivals to Thailand will be close to the number of last year, somewhere around 1.5mn tourists,” she said.
“At the same time, we are paying much attention to potential target groups, such as Health & Wellness groups, especially to those living in Siberian region, and Far East groups, who like to travel to for medical and health care in Thailand because it is quite convenient, within a six-hour flight,” Ms Anoma explained.
“Honeymoon and wedding groups are also being targeted because young Russians like to go to Thailand for their honeymoons. The luxury traveller group is another interesting group. Russians spend a lot in Thailand. They like luxurious accommodations and villas.
“Russian women travel more than men, and one segment that cannot be ignored is families, because Russians like to travel as families. Tourist attractions and hotels in Thailand should be ready to support family groups as well,” she added.
Ms Anoma pointed out Thailand was a popular destination among Russians during their winter months, from October to April.
"Now, even though Russian tourists may choose to travel to places that are closer and cheaper, such as Turkey or European countries, in the winter, Thailand still remains the main country where Russian tourists like to visit.
“From talking with business people, airlines and tour operators, they all believe Russian tourists will definitely come back in the coming winter,” Ms Anoma said.
“Phuket is the most popular destination, followed by Pattaya. Russians love Thailand’s coastal areas because such areas are beautiful, and they can go for a swim in good weather.
“Samui and Khao Lak are both becoming more popular, and the TAT is trying to promote Andaman coastal provinces Trang, and Satun. East coastal provinces, Trat, Chanthaburi and Rayong are also gaining more interest,” she said.
Phuket Tourism Association President Bhummikitti Ruktaengam explained that about 700,000 Russian tourists came to Phuket in 2018.
“Previous road shows to Moscow, Kazan and St Petersburg resulted in the number of Russian tourists visiting Phuket increasing by 10%,” Mr Bhummikitti said.
“All three cities (visited) in Siberia have solid economies, and all three cities have direct flights to Phuket,” he added.
“Phuket is well known among the people tourists and tour operators in all three cities, and we have never held a road show in Siberia before. We wanted to bring new travel products to tell the people in this part of Russia,” he said.
Russians coming to Phuket tend to stay quite long, for seven to 14 days, Mr Bhummikitti noted.
“Therefore, we have updated various tourism itineraries, allowing operators to design more comprehensive tours,” he explained.
"Phuket grew out of sea sun sand tourism, but what we want to emphasise is cultural tourism. In this road show, we presented Phuket Old Town, its architecture, the traditional forms of dress and Baba wedding ceremonies.
"We also promoted sports activities in Phuket, because Russian people like sports, and provided packages that combined tourism with sports,” he said.
Information flow went both ways, he added.
“Operators and tourists also had concerns about tourist safety, about dengue fever, marine safety and the availability of support and care for tourists, "Mr Bhummikitti said.