Thousands of Russian and Ukrainian tourists are currently stranded in Thailand, due to sanctions imposed in Russia over the Ukraine invasion.
The sanctions have put a squeeze on Russians struggling to find flights and finances.
Thailand’s Tourism Minister says 7,000 Russians have been left stranded in Thailand because of cancelled flights, a falling rouble and payment problems caused by Russian banks being cut off from the global Swift system.
Despite the invasion of Ukraine we have to be considerate hosts and take care of everyone,” Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn said.
“There are still Russian tourists arriving,” he said.
Thailand Popular with Russian Tourists
A request for comment from Russia’s embassy in Bangkok did not immediately receive a response.
Thailand received 1.4 million Russian visitors in 2019. Around 23,000 Russians arrived in January, which represents about a fifth of all arrivals.
Phuket accounts for roughly half of the Russian tourists stranded in Thailand.
Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, the president of the Phuket tourism association, said hotels were asked to reduce their prices and extend their stays.
After Visa and Mastercard issued by Russian banks stopped working, some visitors turned to China’s UnionPay.
As a result of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Visa and MasterCard announced they are suspending operations in Russia.
Vladimir Putin has called his actions in Ukraine a “special operation“.
Despite backing a UN resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops, Thailand has not imposed any sanctions on Moscow.
Mr. Bhummikitti also said hundreds of Ukrainians were also stranded due to airport closures in Ukraine.
There are efforts underway to get stranded Russians back home on Middle Eastern airlines and to arrange repatriation flights.
Hotel, airlines and other businesses in Phuket are looking into the possibility of accepting cryptocurrency as a payment method, he said.