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90 day extension for Russian visa-free entry gets mixed reaction

Phuket crowds tourists

“Why only Russian people?”

“They’re waging war against Ukraine and they get special treatment. Why?”

“It’s cold in Canada as well. Can I also get a 90 day visa-waiver?”

Just a few of the many reactions to the Thai government’s announcement yesterday about Russian citizens being given an automatic 90 day visa-waiver in their passport when they arrive in Thailand from November 1.

But the Thai government’s decision to extend visa-free stays from 30 to 90 days for Russian tourists has received a mixed reaction across the country. In Phuket, the extension has been welcomed by most, whereas tourism operators in Pattaya are less sure.

In Phuket, during September, Russian arrivals were the Number one nationality for Phuket, followed by Chinese citizens.

SCREENSHOT: Phuket Immigration FB page

On Monday, October 16, PM Srettha Thavisin temporarily extended the period of stay for Russians entering the country visa-free. The extension, from 30 days to 90 days, is effective from November 1 and will run until April 30, 2024.

In Phuket, the extension is mostly seen in a positive light, as something that will boost tourism numbers and the local economy. However, the Phuket Express reports that a number of tourism operators in Pattaya have expressed concern that the extension to visa-free stays could attract Russians who might steal Thai jobs, such as tour guides.

An executive director at Sunshine Hotels and Resorts, and former president of the Chon Buri Tourism Council, says making it easier for Russians to stay for longer periods could lead to an uptick in those coming to work illegally in the kingdom. Thanet Supornsahasrungsi fears this could affect Thai jobs, in particular Thai tour guides, who don’t speak Russian, which potentially puts them at a disadvantage.

Meanwhile, in Phuket and on Koh Samui, people are more optimistic, with tourism operators saying Russians staying for longer can only be a good thing for the ecomomy.

The President of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, hopes to see more long-stay tourists and remote workers. Ratchaporn Poolsawadee adds that while there may be some illegal workers, they will be in the minority compared to the numbers benefiting the local economy.

The feeling in Phuket is similar, where tourism operators are looking forward to improved spending from tourists as data shows a preference for longer stays post-pandemic.

The Phuket Express reports that as of October 15, 2023, over a million Russians have travelled to Thailand, with tourism officials forecasting 1.17 million by the end of the year.

SOURCE: The Phuket Express

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