MAIL BAG [email protected]
An Open Letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Tourism Authorities and the Ambassadors of all Nations
I recently wrote an open letter addressed to the ambassadors of all nations
represented in Thailand, asking them to remove or re-word their warnings
that had been placed, at times, unnecessarily and unfairly on travel to
Bangkok and Thailand. I sincerely thank those who assisted in changing their
country’s travel advisories to reflect the true situation, that while
disruptions in certain parts of Bangkok were occurring, travel to other
parts of the capital and the Kingdom remained trouble free.
Following on from recent events where the majority of the demonstration
sites have been dismantled and central Bangkok has returned to business as
usual, now is the time to move forward and start rebuilding the country’s
tourism sector and economy.
This will require a united front and I hereby call on the Ministry for
Foreign Affairs, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the tourism industry
as a whole to come together to act on behalf of the nation. I ask the
interim government to immediately lift the current State of Emergency. I
also call upon the ambassadors of all nations that have not yet done so, to
update their country’s travel warnings to reflect the current peaceful and
limited nature of the protests. Lastly, I call upon the Kingdom’s business
leaders across the economic and social welfare spectrum to put the interests
of the country first as we rebuild an industry and economy that have
suffered greatly and unnecessarily in recent months.
Taking into account that unfortunate instances occur in other countries and
no stern travel warnings have been enforced, it is deeply disappointing to
see that Thailand is still being portrayed as a dangerous country, when this
is indeed not the case. Along with the rest of the world, I was shocked to
learn about the recent terrorist attack that took place in Kunming, China
and my condolences go out to the families who lost loved ones in the attack.
To date, I am not aware of many countries, if any, that have issued a travel
warning to Kunming, and China has not been designated as a danger zone for
Unfortunately this only goes to emphasize the point that unfortunate
incidents can occur anytime and anywhere. As a consequence, stringent travel
warnings which are placed on a country can badly affect or even destroy
industries and the economy. The world as we know it has changed and it is
time to review how travel warnings are issued and how they specifically
address the concerns of travel. Today’s travelers have access to information
from reliable news sources updated regularly and they can easily make well
informed decisions. I really feel that this needs to be considered before
travel warnings are issued.
Although many media outlets over sensationalized their reports on the
protests there are still reliable news services and social media outlets,
such as Twitter that tend to give a more up to date assessment of the travel
risks and offer a real insight into the actual situation on the ground.
Official reports in Thailand state that almost half of the active population
is employed by the service industry, which creates over 40 percent of the
annual GDP. In addition, it has been stated that tourism makes a larger
contribution to Thailand’s economy than that of any other Asian nation. With
the current State of Emergency and travel warnings still in place, the
recent drop in tourism is really starting to show. Hotels across the country
are facing a reduction in arrivals which has a knock-on affect not only on
those directly employed by the industry, but also the livelihoods of
millions of people who are indirectly employed by the tourism sector. For
example, all of our hotels source food locally and there are millions of
farmers who will feel the effects of overly stringent travel bans and lack
of confidence in the tourism sector.
I am passionate about the recovery of Thailand’s tourism sector and how we
can actively transform any negative perceptions worldwide that linger from
the recent protests. At times, Thailand has been unfairly portrayed by
certain media outlets as an absolute danger zone. It must be remembered that
the political upheaval in Thailand has always been a national affair and
that tourists and visitors to the Kingdom have never been the target. Please
do not misunderstand me, I agree that travel warnings serve a purpose, but
they must also be realistic and true in their use.
In looking to the future, we must all persevere in our efforts to
re-establish a true international image of safe travel in Thailand. There
may well be more instances of disharmony in the future, but the reaction by
all bodies should not lead to such terrible damage to the travel industry
and the economy as a whole.
Speaking out may not always be a popular choice, but I cannot sit back
quietly whilst Thailand’s tourism sector, associated industries and
individuals continue to suffer unnecessarily. Now is the time to unite and
demand change so that Thailand can continue to be one of the world’s leading
William E. Heinecke
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Minor International Pcl
Chinese behavior in Chiang Mai
It seems strange that Chiang Mai officials had to consult with the Chinese
Consulate about their nationals illegal driving, which is a matter of law
enforcement. Most Chinese visitors are budget travellers with no respect for
Thailand. They are doing here what they are not allowed to do in China, because
they get away with it here. It’s the one-child per couple, spoiled brat policy
which is causing this.
It’s not a matter of not knowing, but of not caring. Don’t blame the consul;
blame the police for poor law enforcement. As for CMU same thing applies.
Security should deny entry to unauthorised visitors. It’s a place of learning,
not a tourist attraction.
Western tourists find it repugnant the way some Asian visitors behave and
friends have told me they dislike Chiang Mai because of that.
Determination to tackle the air pollution?
I have just completed a morning drive from Mae Rim to Hangdong through the haze.
There was a large billboard featuring the governor, with the message “Stop
Burning”, obviously having little effect. I saw much evidence of recent burning
and photographed a raging forest fire which I feel sure was deliberately started
as there was an ATV business close by. A person driving into the premises gave
me a smirk.
I asked several locals about reporting this but they just shrugged.
There’s obviously no real determination to tackle air pollution.