The boom in Eastern European visitors to Thailand in general and Phuket in particular is not all good news for many locals, says analyst Bill Barnett from C9 Hotelworks. “The mounting influence of Eastern European visitors has triggered stress fractures in local infrastructure support and created ongoing controversy over the blending cultures of the new East and the old West,” he said.
“Despite the visible economic benefits, sentiment remains mixed over what form the future may bring.”
Mr Barnett said 1.6 million Eastern Europeans, 82% of them Russians, visited Thailand in 2012 – almost ten times more than the number in 2005. “The sheer impact of the volume is nowhere more apparent than the holiday destination of Phuket which has experienced a direct hit, as over 650,000 Eastern European tourists injected US$1.2 billion into the island’s economy last year,” he said.
“Phuket has seen this business build up over the past four years with a 42% compound annual growth rate. This rapid acceleration has turned the tables upside down on the once dominant Western European market. The shift is now on display day in and day out on the resort island where mounting numbers of charter flights and tour buses are a constant reminder of a changing world.”