Hard times have fallen on Pattaya, a beach resort about 60 miles southeast of Bangkok, as Russian tourists cancel their vacation plans amid the collapse of the ruble.
"Hotel room reservations from the Russian market have already dropped by 70% for this high season," Sanpetch Suppabawonsathien, president of the Thai Hotels Association, told the Bangkok Post.
According to figures from the Kasikorn Research Center, visitors from Russia to Thailand dropped by 5.5% in 2014 to 1.65 million from 1.75 million. Russia is the third-biggest market for Thai tourism, according to the Post.
It's a stark change from the mid-1990s, when the Thai beach resort was considered a "dream destination" for wealthy Russians, as described in a 1995 essay by American journalist Ron Gluckman.
"The Russians come in large numbers, generally as couples or families on holiday. They settle into Pattaya for up to two weeks and rely heavily on hotel food-and-beverage services, the most profitable portion of a hotel's business," Gluckman wrote.
They had money. And enjoyed spending it.
WikipediaThe Pattaya Bay Area is one of Asia's largest beach resorts.
"They also eat and drink like feasting monarchs," Gluckman added. "At Pattaya's Russkii Restaurant — serving beetroot salads, borscht, and liver stroganoff — proprietor Konstantine Povolotski stocks $300 bottles of Champagne."
Now, travel agents are pressuring Pattaya hoteliers to "cut surcharges and gala dinners from tour programs in the peak season and to sell special packages for Russian tourists," the Post said.
Suppabawonsathien said he expected the number of Russian visitors to Pattaya to plunge by more than 50% in 2014 compared with last year because of the weakening of the ruble, which fell to an all-time low against the dollar this week.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow on Thursday, in which he said the central bank and government were taking adequate measures to put the country on a positive track and that Russia would bounce back from its economic crisis within two years........