Russia’s increasing isolation from the West is turning exotic islands in Thailand a hotspot for its rich citizens. While Phuket has long attracted wealthier Russians, the influx is accelerating as the war in Ukraine makes several destinations in Europe harder to enter.
Since Vladimir Putin began his invasion, the European Union has made it increasingly difficult for Russians to travel to the bloc. That has pushed a number of people to countries with easier entry regulations such as Turkey and Thailand.
Thai Beaches Offer Russians An Affordable Alternative In Asia
According to real estate agency Knight Frank Thailand, the number of villas sold in Phuket last year surged 82%, with about half of it purchased by Russians. Almost 800,000 Russian nationals entered Thailand between January and June, the Thai Tourism and Sports Ministry said.
Interestingly, over 50% of those tourists flew directly into Phuket airport, according to the Phuket Tourist Association. While European cities have long been the main havens for Russian speakers, Thailand’s nightlife, openness and beaches provided an affordable alternative.
Phuket even has a Russian consulate, officially opened by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in July. The Russian minister met with his Thai counterpart during the visit. The diplomatic office is located within the Royal Phuket Marina, a seaside community.
It’s Not All Sunshine And Rainbows, Though
In line with the accelerating influx, Thais have started adapting to the needs and habits of Russian tourists. Several street signs and shop names are now in Cyrillic, with Phuket International Airport making announcements also in Russian.
Despite helping generate much-needed jobs in the tourism and investment – dependent Phuket, the influx of Russians has also pushed some potential Thai buyers out of the market. Local workers are also seeing the impact of inflation on basic goods and even rental properties.