A popular destination for many Russians, Thailand is now looking for ways to facilitate their payments amid widening western sanctions over Moscow’s military invasion of Ukraine. Cryptocurrency is one of the options being explored by the tourism industry as Russian citizens now face financial restrictions.
Authorities in Thailand Consider Accepting Cryptocurrency From Russian Visitors
Talks are underway between the Phuket Tourist Association (PTA) and the Bank of Thailand (BOT) to find alternative payment methods, including cryptocurrency, for Russian tourists visiting the country. The effort comes after Visa and Mastercard suspended support for Russian-issued cards outside the country, adding to the pressure on Moscow to end its military assault on Ukraine.
Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, the Phuket Tourist Association’s president, has recently discussed the possibility of allowing Russian tourists to use cryptocurrencies as an emergency measure, a backup option, if fiat transactions cannot be processed, the Nation Thailand daily reported.
The PTA official has also suggested that Thai businesses integrate the Russian card payment system Mir, which was developed after some Russian banks were denied services by Visa and Mastercard following the annexation of Crimea back in 2014.
Other media reports have revealed that companies from the tourism sector have been employing the Chinese payment platform Unionpay, also a provider of bank card services, to offer Russians in the country another payment method to cover their bills.
Thousands of Russian and Ukrainian Tourists Stranded in Thai Resorts
Up to 4,000 tourists from the Russian Federation are currently in Phuket, a province of over 30 islands off Thailand’s southern coast. The largest of them, Phuket, is a popular tourist destination on the Russian market. Between 300 and 400 Ukrainian visitors are also there now, Bhummikitti said.
Another 3,000 tourists from both countries are on vacation in Koh Samui, Krabi and Pattaya, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). They have been stranded by the ongoing war in Ukraine or unable to return home due to canceled flights.
Russia’s Aeroflot and S7 Airlines are not flying to Phuket after a number of nations closed their airspace to Russian planes. The government in Bangkok has waived a $60 visa extension fee for Russians and Ukrainians while TAT and tour operators are mulling over other measures to help the tourists.
Hostilities in Ukraine started when Russian forces crossed the border on Feb. 24. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR, over a million Ukrainians sought shelter in neighboring countries in the first week of the conflict. Authorities in Kyiv and NGOs have turned to crypto donations to fund defense efforts and solve humanitarian problems.