A hotel tycoon is disappointed with the government's tight control over Covid vaccinations, suggesting more tourists coming to Thailand aren't comfortable visiting public healthcare centres.
William Heinecke, chairman and founder of Minor International Plc, said the government moved quickly in reopening the country, but the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines was disappointing.
He said the government kept tight control over vaccines, with distribution restricted to government centres, rather than being freely available throughout the country.
Some foreign tourists don't feel comfortable visiting government clinics, preferring private hospitals or clinics, said Mr Heinecke.
The Public Health Ministry started a pilot vaccination project this month for tourists in popular provinces, but it only allows public hospitals and healthcare centres to serve as vaccination centres.
The private sector was not permitted to join the project.
Speaking at an NH Hotel Group press conference, related to one of the company's major investments, Mr Heinecke said as Covid infections ease, Minor plans to focus on growth this year, expanding its hotel and food portfolio, both in terms of owned equity and management deals.
Brands under NH would be among the firm's key businesses to grow globally, he said.
"Hopefully the general election this year will be handled smoothly and the Thai recovery will continue with the government's support," said Mr Heinecke.
He said tourism rebounded strongly during the New Year and the Chinese New Year, even without Chinese market.
A more diverse range of nationalities helped raise room rates in all markets, as the industry is not currently overly reliant on a specific market, said Mr Heinecke.
This balance should persist because the Chinese market only started to return this month and will take until the fourth quarter to post a significant recovery, he said.
Dillip Rajakarier, group chief executive of Minor International and chief executive at Minor Hotels, said the company is still looking for joint ventures with sovereign wealth funds to add hotels in Thailand and globally after it secured an agreement with Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) in December last year.
The deal enables ADFD to jointly hold a 40% share in four hotels in Thailand -- Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort, Avani+ Riverside Bangkok Hotel, Anantara Layan Phuket Resort and Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui -- as well as the mall Riverside Plaza Bangkok.
"We're in talks with the top 10 funds in Europe and look forward to using those investments in new hotels for expansion," said Mr Rajakarier.
"There will be at least two more joint ventures with leading funds this year."
He said Minor has more than 70 properties in the pipeline.
With the strong recovery in tourism building up since last year, the revenue contribution from hotels for the group increased to 75% in 2022 from 68% in 2021, which is the same proportion recorded before the pandemic.