Thai hospitality magnate is 'very optimistic' about Thailand's tourism recovery


Tourist sitting on a swing at a beach in Thailand.

(c) Marco Bottigelli | Moment | Getty Images

Thailand’s tourism recovery is poised for recovery as diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia normalize and Chinese tourists return, according to American-born hotel tycoon William Heinecke.

“We’ve seen the recovery of all Saudi tourism into Thailand. Now there’s two flights a day from Saudi direct to Thailand,” Heinecke, who is chairman of Thai hospitality company Minor International, said on the sidelines of the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore.

“There’s more coming and there’s a huge demand… Thailand has become a second home of choice for many people around the world. Heinecke added that more people are buying real estate in Thailand from Eastern Europe, Russia, and Ukraine. This was after the 30-year “Blue Diamond Affair” which involved the theft of Saudi jewels and deaths of Saudi diplomats in Thailand. The meeting marked the thawing of relations after the 30-year “Blue Diamond Affair,” which involved the theft of Saudi jewels and the deaths of Saudi diplomats in Thailand.

According to data from Thailand’s tourism ministry, from January to July this year, there were more than 800,000 tourists from Russia visiting the Southeast Asian nation — that’s more than 10 times the 77,935 tourists seen in 2022 over the same period.

Likewise, the total number of Ukrainian travelers visiting Thailand from January to July this year increased to 20,507 compared to 7,967 in the same period in 2022. It’s only one stop to get from the Middle East anywhere in the globe. So the Middle East has become the hub for the world.

William Heinecke

Chairman, Minor International

The Middle East is “one of the most dynamic markets,” owing it to the region’s airlines like Emirates and Qatar Airways, Heinecke said.

“All of these airlines. The Middle East is the hub for the world. So the Middle East has become the hub for the world,” he said.

Return of Chinese tourists?

Additionally, Heinecke said he expects Thailand to benefit when Chinese tourism is back in full swing.

“As China comes back, we believe that will be another large step” for Thai tourism, he said.

However, that may take a little more time, Heinecke noted.

“We’ve already seen the recovery of the Chinese but it’s the high end

,” he said. Heinecke said that the Chinese have already recovered, but it’s been at the high end. “