William E. Heinecke, the chairman and CEO of the Minor Corporation, a leading distributor of global lifestyle brands in Thailand, speaks out about travel advisories in this open letter:
“With life in Bangkok having returned to normal following the recent demonstrations, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you whole heartedly for your assistance in lifting your country’s travel warming, and indeed for … all the steps you have taken since … helping to address the issues that Thailand’s tourism industry is now facing.
“As the CEO of one of Asia’s leading leisure companies, with brands heavily invested throughout Thailand, I am passionate about the continuing recovery of the hotel industry and how we can transform any negative worldwide perceptions that linger from the recent turmoil.
“In looking to the future, we must all persevere in our efforts to re-establish a true international image of travel safety in Thailand, and in doing so I am eager to open a dialogue and have a better understanding of the approach, assessment and the issuance guidelines of your travel warnings.
“At this point I feel it is important to remember that while the global media at times unfairly portrayed Thailand – the entire country – as being unsafe for tourists, in actual fact outside of Bangkok, and specifically the Rajprasong area, life remained peaceful and unaffected by the events which took place.
“The negative effect on areas of the Kingdom untouched by the trouble was not only devastating but unnecessary. The time has come to call upon the embassies represented in Thailand to create4 a mutual agreement based on a clear and rigorous assessment that continued to guarantee the safety of the citizens of your nation whilst fairly depicting the state of this nation.
“When taking into account disturbances that have occurred in other countries around the world that have not resulted in a travel warning being issued, I have to say it saddens me to see a blanket warning being applied to Thailand. When there were the Athens anti-austerity riots in May and the Toronto G20 protests in June, travelers were only warned specifically about the protests happening in those cities, but were not told to avoid Greece or Canada as nations. Yet, when there were demonstrations restricted to Bangkok, the entire country of Thailand was labeled with a travel warning.
“I completely agree that travel warnings are useful and must be created in the full interest of each country’s visitors, but they must also be realistic in their use. Perhaps we can consider reviewing how travel warnings are established and I would like to see the creation of an advisory board which could be represented by the private and public sectors to aid each embassy in assessing how best to make a fair and correct decision in respect of visitor security.
“Thailand is a Kingdom where international visitors are not targets and never have been for political grievances, as demonstrated by the way in which Thais continued to welcome guests with their renowned hospitality throughout the demonstrations this year and last year.
“As a long-term resident of Thailand and now a Thai citizen, I can honestly say that I, like so many visitors to Thailand, feel safer here than in most cities in Europe and North America. Indeed as you and your family have resided here for some time, I can only imagine that you share this sentiment.
“Hence it is heartbreaking to see a country-wide travel warning that causes unnecessary panic for international guests and hardship for the millions of people working in the travel sector and related industries. I understand fully that you have the interests and safety of your nation’s people at heart, and my request does not infringe upon this patriotic approach. What I do ask, is that travel warnings are issued when and specifically where you feel that your citizens may be in danger, a d that they are delivered on a fair and level basis by using the same criteria to judge all countries.
“Thailand has demonstrated its resiliency throughout various adverse events in the past, including economic crises and political uncertainty. I am confident that the memories of recent troubles will pass with time and that tourists will soon return to experience Thailand’s natural beauty, unique culture, and the warm welcome of its people.
“I am further confident that Thailand will continue to be one of the world’s leading tourist destinations. Indeed, Bangkok and Chiang Mai were recently voted as the #1 and #2 “Best” cities in the world by Travel & Leisure’s annual readers’ survey, testament to the strong popularity Thailand continues to enjoy amongst tourists globally. I hope that by working together with the same goals in sight, we can instigate positive steps that will be safely beneficial for tourists and businesses alike.”