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MOSCOW CALLING Getting Lost In Translation

Category: Tourism, Posted:18 Nov 2011 | 09:21 am

Images of the cold war still seem to linger in our midst, though most of them are cinematic glimpses from movies such as Dr. Strangelove. Even the lost legion of Chairman Mao and his little red book seem to mostly adorn pop art installation rather than serious new publications.
The economic miracles of the BRIC's (Brazil, Russia, India and China) buzz around new rooms from CNBC to the Wall Street Journal. Now of course we have the Mini-BRICS, and no doubt this will spur on the smaller BRICS or maybe been micro BRIC's.(Note to readers I really wanted to insert the word midget here but in deference to the wee little people I have elected to be culturally sensitive).
One of the most popular topics in coffee shops and bars around the island seems to be the Russianizaton of Phuket. Mind you there are a lot of people here with nothing better to do but exchange this with that and generally grovel in doom, gloom and self-loathing.
Okay so back to the topic of lets pick on the Russian for a while. Why don't we like the Russian? Maybe it the language, frankly speaking most people here consider them to be second class Germans. It's that guttural low roaring language and that bear like grunting. , and how can everyone be named Boris and Olga?
Also instead of beer they drink vodka – and lots of it, like water. What's wrong with beer? Stalin, Lennon and Yeltsin didn't do much to attract the average Westerner. These guys became upcountry kissing cousins, and the world considered them as such.
Of course that wild and crazy experiment called Communism has now mostly tanked (shhh don't tell Cuba) and the meeting of tribes has erupted into a full force capitalist's dreams. No your average Russian man is like everyone else, they want a bombshell blond wife, a beachfront villa, mega yacht and drink as much alcohol as they can before lapsing into either sleep or a coma.
On the last point they share much in common with the average Irishman or Englishman.
Integrating into Phuket and the new wave of tourism is an interesting metamorphosis. Taking a drive down to Bangtao today I saw the birth of a new island business – Russian signage. Restaurants, money changes, massage shops, all herald a stunning new multi-cultural dimension.
Walkiing down the soi's are indeed groups of blond Russian looking (whatever that means) woman in packs and of course the hotels now in green season are filled with tour groups from Pegas Touristik.
So as in all things the Thai's have indeed adopted, shifted and changed their business models. What you expect to do, say no to Eastern Europeans and have businesses go bankrupt. No money to feed their kids, pay school fees, or spend down at Jungceylon. Of course not, they are in the tourism business and basically right not the go to market is the Russians.
At the same time on web chat lines and letters to the editor, new sites and bars everywhere the great debate roars on. You can hear the bellyaching from across the klongs, how dare these cold refugees invade our own private island and destroy our way of life.
Now take a step back and that does sound a bit silly, doesn't it.
I do totally appreciate though the "big picture" and fully agree that you need in any business model healthy market segmentation. Be like the Stature of Liberty; bring us your rich, your poor, your tall, your short. Just don't bring too many or come too much otherwise we might want you to leave again.
Phuket's welcome mat shouldn't be rolled up for anyone. The thick cultural fabric of Thai society lends itself to tolerance and hospitality. And that includes even the Russians, the Chinese, Brits, Germans, Aussies, American's Kiwis or anyone else from a host of nations. And yes..even the French.

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