What is new with local or global mainstream press? One names it, sensationalism to sell news to the masses is the norm. Yet the world is becoming a highly specialized place, with less and less room for global single narrative, especially with the growth of social net-work. Here in Thailand the tourism business was hit hard by the Fascist Suthep’s activities, but most of that is contained, with some level of un-predictability in Bangkok. But outside of Bangkok? Well, out-side of Bangkok it is about 99.99% normal Thailand as usual. So what can a tourism business leader do, to fight local and global mainstream press? Well, William E. Heinecke, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, of Thailand’s local and global tourism heavy, Minor International Pcl, says thanks to “TWITTER” for getting the message on the ground about Thailand being safe out for global consumption.
The following is from William E. Heinecke, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Minor International Pcl (Source)
An Open Letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tourism Authorities and the Ambassadors of all Nations Represented in Thailand
Friday, 21 March 2014
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 travelers.
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 tourist destinations.
William E. Heinecke
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Minor International Pcl