Thailand will offer crypto payments to Russian tourists

The Phuket Tourist Association (PTA) and Bank of Thailand (BOT) are reportedly considering introducing cryptocurrency payment methods for Russian travelers to Thailand. The move would serve as an escape route as Russian citizens have been severely restricted by numerous countries, companies and businesses following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia's "special military operation" against Ukraine has led many nations to wage economic war on the largest country by land mass to isolate it from the global financial world. The West has kicked some Russian banks out of the SWIFT payment system. At the same time, large companies such as Visa, Mastercard and PayPal have announced that they will stop serving customers based in Russia. Contrary to such sanctions, Thailand seeks to offer alternative cryptocurrency settlement options to Russian tourists. According to a local report, PTA President Bhummikitti Ruktaengam said the digital assets could serve as a backup in the event that transactions are canceled. He also suggested that Thai businesses could start interacting with the Russian Mir payment system and use the processes among themselves.

Ruktaengam said there are currently 3,500-4,000 Russian tourists and 300-400 Ukrainian visitors to Phuket. Another 3,000 travelers from both nations can be found in Krabi, Koh Samui and Pattaya. Ordinary tourists are allowed to stay a maximum of 60 days in Thailand. Despite numerous requests, Thai authorities have stated that they will not extend visas for those unable to return home due to the military conflict. On the other hand, the government has declared that no tourists from either country will be deported against their will. As the list of financial payment providers presenting plans to withdraw from the Russian market continues to grow, the country has started looking for monetary alternatives in its southern neighbor, China. A few days ago, the Bank of Russia stated that local lenders will be able to use the UnionPay system. The latter is headquartered in Shanghai, China, and operates in more than 180 countries, the central bank said. The institution also added that several Russian banks already use UnionPay, while others (including Sberbank and Tinkoff) could start issuing cards, which combine Russia's domestic Mir settlement system with China's.