Hotel tycoon Bill Heinecke wants to charge tourists more to fund recovery

Tourists enjoy Khao San Road in Bangkok, renowned for its nightlife. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

Bill Heinecke, the Thai-American chairman of Minor International Pcl that runs more than 500 hotels worldwide, wants Thailand to allow hotels to charge international tourists a surcharge of 300 baht (US$8) per room night to fund the industry’s post-Covid-19 pandemic recovery.

The additional room rate along with a raft of other proposals, “will help Thailand’s hospitality sector survive this difficult environment of depressed demand and rising costs,” Heinecke wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The tourism industry is reeling from high inflation and costs of raw materials, wages, energy and fuel prices, forcing operators to draw heavily on their reserves to cope, he said. 

Heinecke’s calls for fresh relief measures comes as Thailand is on course to surpass its target to attract 10 million foreign visitors this year. 

“While the goal to welcome over 10 million international tourists in 2022 poses a significant uptick year-on-year, it only amounts to a quarter of the 2019 level,” Heinecke said. “Even projection in 2023 of 18 million is only 45% of pre-Covid.”

As tourist arrivals will only gradually return to pre-Covid levels, Thailand has said it will focus on extracting more from each visitor. Thailand welcomed almost 40 million foreign tourists in 2019, the year before the coronavirus pandemic, who generated more than $62 billion in revenue, according to official data.

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