Crawling into high season
For a start, the high season in Phuket this year has been a little unusual. The usually dependable weather has not been itself, and is not even trying to be co-operative. Early mornings are cool and windy and we continue to have rain showers every evening while the days are cloudy and even a peak of the sun is brief. There are more than a few hundred thousand tourists in Phuket this season that have travelled a few thousand miles to enjoy the sun, sand and sea. Well, it looks like they will have to make do with only the sand and sea as the sun continues to play hide and seek.
Another difference is that the amount of Russian tourists has dwindled dramatically compared to the same time last year. The fall of the Russian ruble has obviously made a significant impact on the bitter-cold winter travelling plans of many of its citizens. The tour companies who solely cater to Russian tourists are now bemoaning their fate and are complaining that this high season might be a total washout for them. Surprisingly, they have not seemed to have learned or to have remembered the age-old lesson of not putting all your eggs in one basket.
Pattaya’s property market also seems to be the first to feel the ripple effects of the falling ruble. The Russian buyers who have bought property off-plan are now having extreme difficulties in meeting their monthly repayments. Cancellations of property bookings and forfeiture have also increased. As the ruble has dropped so dramatically, the repayments are now close to double of what they originally had to pay. Some developers have extended the loan period to assist their clients in the short term in the hope of holding on to the client but some clients have defaulted completely. In Phuket, we have heard of clients cancelling their booking and forfeiting the deposit for two-month holiday villa rentals while some clients, instead of staying the whole two-month period, just turn up just to stay for two weeks and leave. Both seaside resorts of Pattaya and Phuket will no doubt feel the swift effects of the falling ruble.
It’s been a bumpy 2014 year all in all for Thailand and the hopes of a good high season may now be dampened both by tourist arrivals and the weather. According to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the number of international arrivals till Oct 2014 has dropped 3% to 19.7 million from 21.6 million during the same period last year. It would probably be impossible to achieve the targets for 2014 set by the ministry in terms of arrivals & revenue.
However we are all hopeful that this year’s high season could still be salvaged as it is still far from over and should the ruble recover then January and February could see Russians back as they celebrate the Russian Christmas on the 7th of January.