The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) proceeded normally with its participation in the International Russian Travel Market-Leisure (OTDYKH-Leisure) trade show as part of its ongoing objective to maintain a high marketing profile across all source markets.
The Thai delegation to the OTDYKH-Leisure, the most important travel trade event in the Russian market and CIS countries, was led by H.E. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports. TAT has been participating regularly in the show since 1995. It has played a major role in helping make Russia one of Thailand’s top ten sources of visitor arrivals.
The trade delegation included over 14 Thai exhibitors representing hotels, tour operators and travel-related agencies. The Thai Pavilion this year bore the “2015 Discover Thainess” marketing theme with interesting activities organised alongside including the Thai Fight for the Thailand Fan Club at the Ray Arena, which was designed to tap the growing Russian interest in Muay Thai boxing.
TAT also celebrated its being awarded as the ‘Most Active’ national tourism organisation (NTO) at the OTDYKH-Leisure. There are only two NTOs receiving this award, another is Dubai’s Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing, United Arab Emirates.
Russia is Thailand’s largest source of visitor arrivals from Europe. It is also one of six countries that contributes more than one million annual arrivals, and one of only two countries that generates more female visitors than males.
In 2006, Russian visitor arrivals totalled 187,658. By 2014, this number had surged to 1.6 million Russian visitors. In January-July 2015, Russian visitors to Thailand totalled 506,071.
Thailand, like many other destinations popular with Russian visitors, is feeling the impact of the decline in Russian outbound travellers. However, TAT is confident that the Russian economy will soon be back on track. This year, Thailand is projecting between 900,000 – 1,000,000 Russian visitors.
One reason for this projected turnaround is the outcome from the April 2015 visit to Thailand by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The visit was explicitly designed to boost bilateral trade, economic and investment between Russia and Thailand, which is Russia’s biggest trading partner in ASEAN.
The two countries agreed to increase the trade turnover up to US$10 billion by 2020. Russia is looking to increase its import of fruits and vegetables, meat and fish products from Thailand. At the same time, Russian companies have offered to help Thailand with the implementation of major infrastructure projects, especially in the railways sector.
The two countries also signed a tourism cooperation agreement covering the period 2015-2017. The Thai government has welcomed Russia’s plan to establish a cultural centre in Bangkok.
This year, TAT launched a Russian version of its smartphone application “The Maze”. This app is designed to match the travel preferences of each individual with the appropriate choice of products, services and destinations in Thailand.
Road shows and marketing workshops will also be conducted in major Russian cities.
This is in addition to the most recent marketing event, “The Romantic Thailand Campaign”, which was launched in May 2015.
For the first time, 122 couples from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Georgia took part in this online competition. Six winning couples were hosted to experience a fabulous Thai wedding ceremony and honeymoon between 28 July and 9 August, 2015. The entire trip through the best tourism attractions of Bangkok and Phuket was massively covered via social media in a unique new format of an online show.
Russians can obtain a 30-day visa-free facility at major international Thai border checkpoints. As of September 2015, there are seven direct scheduled flights per week between Bangkok and Moscow operated by Aeroflot Russia Airlines. In addition, numerous scheduled and charter flights operate between major cities in Russia, the CIS countries and Thailand.
At the OTDYKH-Leisure, the Russian trade was informed about the agreement to further develop the U-tapao-Rayong-Pattaya International Airport for commercial purposes. The first phase includes a new passenger terminal, which is expected to be completed in June 2016 and capable of handling three million passengers a year.
This will help Thailand better handle the growing demand by scheduled and charter flights from Russia to land directly at the U-tapao-Rayong-Pattaya International Airport.
Minister Kobkarn said, “We highly recognise the significance of the Russian market. We also all realise the current economic impact, which has affected all of us. We would like to emphasise that Thailand will continue to be your good friend, especially during this time. We are continuing our promotions and programmes as normal. As such, we are here at the OTDYKH-Leisure 2015 to enhance the cooperation and partnership with you all in order to lead us out of the current situation.”