According to a report in the UK’s Daily Mail a Thai tourism chief has announced that “travelers are more at risk in Europe and the UK than in Bangkok’
n an open letter, William Heinecke, CEO of Minor International, one of the largest travel companies in Thailand, also called on foreign countries warning people against travel, to downgrade their advice. He said tourism was ‘one of the vital drivers of the Thai economy’ adding that thousands of ‘livelihoods depend directly and indirectly on tourism’.
Writing in The Nation on Sunday, Mr Heinecke added: ‘Although the ongoing demonstrations are limited to certain parts of Bangkok, the rest of the city – and the country – is safe to visit, but the travel warnings and restrictions issued by some foreign governments do not reflect this fact. ‘Tourists have never been a target in the protests and to this end all airports in Thailand remain fully operational and hotels and tourist attractions across the Kingdom continue to welcome guests as usual.
‘The people of Thailand are extremely welcoming of tourists and I am certain that visitors are in far more danger of being harmed in any major European or American city than they are here in Bangkok.’ The open letter comes as a weekend of attacks saw four people killed – three of them children. On Saturday night, a five-year-old girl was shot dead by gunmen as violence in the country’s three-month-old political crisis spread outside the capital.
The shooting, which left dozens wounded, took place in Trat province, about 180 miles east of Bangkok, where about 500 protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra were holding a rally an outdoor dining area. It is understood the girl was standing near her father’s food stall. Yesterday, a mother and her four-year-old son and six-year-old daughter – who were not part of the protests – were killed in a grenade attack near Bangkok’s Central World shopping mall. A further 21 people were also injured in the blast.
Shinawatra denounced the bloodshed on Sunday. ‘The violent incidents are terrorist acts for political gain without any regard for human lives,’ she said. ‘The government will not tolerate terrorism and has ordered a full investigation by authorities.’ The protests were initially sparked by the government trying to push through legislation that would allow the Prime Minister’s brother – former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who is in self-exile in Dubai due to corruption allegations – to return to the country. Despite an initial election held on February 2, to decide a new Prime Minister, the process is ongoing and there has been no let-up in protests.
The tourism plea from Heinecke comes days after TravelMail reported Thailand’s tourism industry had warned that it faces losing £1.6billion if the country’s political turmoil and violent protests drag on for another six months. The Tourism Authority of Thailand is forecasting that the number of foreign tourists visiting the popular winter sun destination will drop by 900,000 over the next six months, according to The Bangkok Post.
In his open letter, Heinecke hit out at foreign countries advising against travel to Thailand, saying: ‘These unnecessarily severe travel advisories are now having a major impact on the livelihoods of Thais across the country.’ He continued: ‘Foreign governments’ travel warnings and restrictions on their nationals visiting Thailand are not based on the reality of the situation here. If there were demonstrations in Washington or Paris, would tourists be advised not to visit the entire country? Would travel warnings ever be issued?
‘The Ministry of Tourism and Sports forecasts that tourism arrivals in January have dropped by one million from the same time last year. The Tourism Council estimates Bt22.5 billion (£4bn) in revenue has been lost as a result. This impact will not only be felt in the tourism sector, but also indirectly in all fields, from manufacturing to farming.
‘Thailand remains one of the most popular and desired destinations on the planet. I know that tourists still want to travel here – I can see it in the reservation enquiries that our hotels receive every day. ‘But people are naturally hesitant when their home country issues travel restrictions or country warnings. ‘It is upsetting to see travel warnings such as the “Black/Severe Threat for Thailand (Bangkok)” from the government of Hong Kong. Specifically, nationals are “urged to avoid all travel to Bangkok”, which I feel is severe and should only refer to specific areas of the capital.
‘Bangkok is open for business and visitors are warmly welcomed across the capital and the country.’
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not updated its travel information for UK holidaymakers heading to Thailand since February 18. The advice reads: ‘[FCO] advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla on the Thai-Malaysia border. ‘The FCO advise against all travel to the Preah Vihear (Khaoi Pra Viharn in Thai) temple area and the Ta Krabey/Ta Moan temple area located on the Thai-Cambodian border due to the presence of troops in the area and the risk of outbreaks of fighting. ‘There is a high threat of terrorism.’
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