The following is a copy of the letter's text in full that was sent to the Minister of the Interior by Minor Group's Chairman & Group Chief Executive Officer Mr. Bill Heinecke.
General Anupong Paochinda Minister of Interior Bangkok
6th December 2019
Subject: The Government’s Policies and Measures towards Airbnb
As one of the world’s leading travel destinations, Thailand’s policies should be up-to-date as those of the top destinations in the world. Minor International has been working with various government officials and agencies under different administration for several years in efforts to move the policies forward.
Regarding the recent news coverages on the partnership between the Interior Ministry’s Department of Local Administration (DLA), Government Savings Bank (GSB) and Airbnb in an effort to promote and train homestay operators nationwide, I am very concerned that such collaboration could send a wrong message in respect of the regulatory decision on short-term rental in this country.
Despite the direct benefits which go in line with the government’s directions to promote second tier cities, I believe there are many other avenues that the government can operate. Safeguarding the interest of residents in private properties as well as tourists and protecting the image of Thai tourism should be top priorities.
To recap the outstanding issues, Airbnb operates without a hotel license and does not comply with fire safety, security, and privacy standards at the expense of the residents and hotel operators. Many countries such as Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore and several US states amongst others have enforced law regulating Airbnb’s commercial practices. The most recent incident was the protest of French hotel groups against the new partnership between the International Olympic Committee and Airbnb for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics Games. French hoteliers have long opposed Airbnb as the industry-disrupting platform, citing that the home rental platform is taking advantage of minimal oversight to undercut their business. In Thailand, we have not seen any concrete action taken by the Thai government to protect the public interest and those of the many major investors in the hotel industry in a meaningful way.
Moreover, it is still at best unclear whether Airbnb pays due taxes on its income derived from Thailand. Registered hotel operators pay corporate income and tourism taxes to Thailand which go towards tourism infrastructure. Airbnb earn a commission when room owners rent out rooms. There are allegations made by various media, industry experts and academic sources that these commissions are not taxed by the Revenue Department and hence do not contribute to the public interest of the country.
The abovementioned matters are detrimental to our tourism and economy at large. While they have not been sufficiently addressed, such collaboration by our government or state agencies with Airbnb sends an incorrect message to the public and to the world, and is equivalent to the policy makers’ nod of approval towards these corporations’ practices.
Minor International would like to call for a strong commitment, proactiveness, and consistency of the government in creating a level playing field in the tourism sector and protecting the public interest against the destructive commercial practices of Airbnb.
It is important to note that the difficulties to control, regulate, and monitor these home-sharing activities are putting the country’s tourism at risk. An accident involving tourists may damage the host country’s reputation. This is more important in Thailand than in most places because tourism is such an integral part of our economy. A clear regulatory framework for Airbnb and other similar activities should be issued. They should be subjected to the same standard, tax system, safety requirement and other regulations as those that applied to hotel operators.
William E. Heinecke Chairman & Group Chief Executive Officer Minor International PCL
CC: Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha Prime Minister
Mr. Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn Minister of Tourism and Sports
Mr. Tossaporn Sirisampan Chairman of the Board of the Tourism Authority of Thailand
Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn Governor for Tourism Authority of Thailand
Ms. Supawan Tanomkieatipume President, Thai Hotels Association
Mr. Chatchai Payuhanaveechai President, Government Savings Bank
Minor International is today one of the largest hospitality and leisure companies in the Asia Pacific region. With over 520 hotels & resorts, 2,200 restaurants and 480 retail trading points of sale, MINT meets the growing needs of consumers in Thailand and in 62 markets across Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Europe and the Americas.