Thailand should look to the example of the more liberal reopening policies of Europe and travel hot spots such as the Maldives to revive its tourism industry, says Bill Heinecke, the founder and chairman of Minor International.
Current entry requirements for vaccinated foreign travellers are too “cumbersome”, the Bangkok-based hotelier said in an interview with Bloomberg News.
“If you’re vaccinated and tested you must be allowed to travel without so much paperwork,” said Mr Heinecke, who heads one of Asia’s largest hospitality, restaurant and lifestyle companies.
Tourism numbers in Thailand are “going to be tough and challenging for a while until the government changes its position”, he said.
While Thailand this month resumed its Test & Go program, Mr Heinecke labelled the requirements — multiple Covid tests, the need to use an online registration system and having an insurance policy with at least $50,000 cover — as “cumbersome”.
“The US remained open through all this period pretty much and Europe has also handled it pretty well,” he said. “These are the bright spots — we don’t see difficulties or roadblocks stopping tourism from the rest of the world.”
A government spokesman on Saturday defended the current approach, saying the travel measures are in place to improve confidence both among local residents and foreigners, after the recent surge in Omicron cases.
“In reopening the country again this time, we have to make sure it’s safe for all,” said Anucha Burapachaisri, secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office. “These travel requirements won’t be the norm forever, but only until the outbreak situation improves.”