William E Heinecke, chairman of Minor International, recently wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in which he applauded her government's initiatives to drive Thailand's competitiveness across many industries, especially tourism, w
Heinecke also pointed out that the government’s plan to abolish import tax on luxury goods would help reduce trade barriers and facilitate considerable growth in key income-generating sectors.
Tourism and service industries now account for 25 per cent of the country’s GDP.
“Tourism to Thailand, already one of the most popular and desired destinations of the planet can now be taken to the next level as the Kingdom has the potential to become a shopping hub on par with the 5th Avenues and Orchard Roads of this world. This is long overdue and our world-class tourism and hospitality offerings need the added punch of competitive luxury shopping to remain relevant and indeed cutting-edge in an industry where diversity and affordability have become some of the notable characteristics on which travellers base their choice,” he said in the letter.
Heinecke added that one example was easing the tax on wine, which is placing small operators and local producers who want to trade openly and honestly at a disadvantage. Alongside other luxury products, wine is a lifestyle product, which is becoming increasingly consumed by foreign visitors and locals as an accompaniment to food.
Reducing tax on wine will drive overall revenue channels throughout the food and beverage industry within the Kingdom. Likewise, it will also boost the quality and value of Thailand’s hospitality and service sectors, he said.
Hong Kong abolished its wine tax in 2008 and established itself as the centre for the enjoyment of fine wine and cuisine on par with London and New York – a fine example of how tax reduction is a proven stimulus for increased commerce.
Another opportunity would be to have more reciprocal visa-exemption arrangements in place or the easing of visa requirements to encourage more travel to the Kingdom, thereby claiming a larger share of the forecasted 580 million arrivals to the Asia-Pacific region by 2017. The open-visa policy in countries like the Maldives has proved to be very successful, and has encouraged a host of Thai companies, including the Minor Hotel Group, to operate at its shores.
Minor International employs more than 40,000 people, encompassing many industries from retail and food to hotels and real estate, production and service.