Call centre opens for stranded Ukrainian, Russian tourists

Tourists attend an event on a walking street in Muang district of Phuket in February 2022. (Photo: Achadtaya Chuenniran)

PHUKET: Phuket opened a call centre on Wednesday to help tourists from Ukraine and Russia unable to return home because of flight cancellations and economic sanctions imposed over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The call centre numbers are 093-937-2086 and 094-819-1124, the Tourism Authority of Thailand announced.

The call centre will be open from 8.30am to 7pm until March 22.

Flight cancellations and the sanctions levied on Russia have already seriously affected the flow of tourists to Phuket.

About half of the Russian tourists arrived in Phuket on direct flights operated by Aeroflot, Siberia Airlines and Ural Airlines.

Aeroflot has cancelled all flights except those to Belarus from Tuesday, and Siberian Airlines grounded flights on Saturday.

Phuket has welcomed 55,826 tourists since the start of Test & Go on Nov 1 last year.

Since the airlines began cancelling flights tourist arrivals have dropped sharply. Tourists who would have used those airlines must now take inconvenient routes to Phuket via Middle East cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Istanbul.

Bhummikitti Raktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourism Association, said 500-600 Russian tourists had been arriving each day. This had largely stopped. With more economic sanctions now coming into force, the impact on tourist arrivals would be even greater.

The number of tourists from Europe would also shrink as their purchasing power was reduced by higher fuel costs.

Mr Bhummikitti said he thought economic sanctions imposed by Europe on Russia would eventually backfire. As a result, there would be even fewer tourists from Europe to Phuket. 

Not only Phuket but the whole of Thailand would be affected, he said. Tourists from China had not yet returned.

In terms of replacement markets, Thai Smiles would make its first direct flight from Mumbai to Phuket on March 19. This would be followed by more flights from New Delhi. Other potential replacements included Australia and Middle East countries, with Saudi Arabia being the prime target, Mr Bhummikitti said.

Regardless of all difficulties, Phuket would continue to promote itself. A proposal had been made for Phuket to host the specialised Expo 2028.

From June 8 to 11, Phuket would host the Thailand Travel Mart organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, he added.

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