Last Updated on September 6, 2023 by Robert C. Hoopes
Russian Tourists and Residents Increase Concerns on Phuket Island
The picturesque Thai tourist island of Phuket has long been a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. However, locals are expressing growing concern about the increasing influx of Russian tourists and residents. More than 400,000 Russians arrived on the island between January and July this year, double the number before Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Many Russians have obtained long-stay visas, bought properties, and established businesses in Phuket as a means to escape economic turmoil and potential conscription in Ukraine. While the growing Russian presence has contributed to the local economy, it has also led to an increase in property prices, making it harder for locals to find affordable housing.
The rise in the number of Russian tourists has also given way to the emergence of Russian-only businesses, often operating through Russian-language apps and employing illegal workers. To make matters worse, reports have emerged of Russian sex workers catering exclusively to Russian clients in the nightlife area of Bangla Road.
Local residents fear that their jobs are being taken by Russians and that Thai citizens are becoming the on-paper owners of tourist businesses on behalf of Russian investors. Consequently, several illegal Russian workers have been arrested by the police in response to these complaints.
Moreover, concerns have been raised about potential business rivalries and crime accompanying the influx of Russian money. Reports of Russian criminals being arrested in other Thai resorts have further fueled these concerns. While most Russians in Thailand are law-abiding, some resort to working illegally due to restrictive laws on foreign workers.
Despite these concerns, the presence of Russian tourists and residents has made a substantial contribution to the local economy. With tourism from China slowed due to the country’s economic downturn, the surge in Russians visiting Phuket has helped fill the gap. Russian buyers have even become the biggest customers of luxury boat sellers on the island, with the number of purchases increasing since the war in Ukraine.
Recognizing the economic potential of the Russian market, the Phuket Tourist Association even sent a delegation to St Petersburg to attract revenue. Russian property agents in Phuket have also observed a trend of many Russians buying off-plan properties for their families to live in, viewing the island as a safe haven away from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
While the increase in Russian tourism and investment has its downfalls, it is undeniable that Phuket’s economy has experienced a boost from the growing Russian presence. However, it is crucial for local authorities to address the concerns raised by residents to ensure a harmonious future for the island.