Home Business Tourism

Debate Rages Over New Thailand tourist Tax as Country Readies to Reopen

The country will barely be open to quarantine-free arrivals and greedy bureaucrats already want to soak them with yet another pointless fee

Foreign tourists walk along Chaweng Beach in Koh Samui. They didn't have to pay another 500 baht to get in the country. (Photo: Bangkok Herald)
Foreign tourists walk along Chaweng Beach in Koh Samui. They didn't have to pay another 500 baht to get in the country. (Photo: Bangkok Herald)

Thailand’s plan to impose a 500-baht tax on each incoming international visitor possibly startng early next year has angered tourism officials who accuse the government of underminding the moribund industry just as it will start to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“The fee to be implemented is considerably high for those visiting Thailand, where hotel rooms can be had for as little as 1,000 baht,” Thai Hotels Association President Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi told Nikkei Asia. “The 500 baht will affect potential visitors’ decisions.”

The National Tourism Policy Committee earlier this year approved a 300-baht surcharge while the Center for Economic Situation Administration OK’d a 200-baht increase earlier this month.

Greedy bureaucrats decided to add the two and slap international tourists – who haven’t visited Thailand en masse since 2019 – with a 500 baht levy.

The new tax is separate from a departure tax that has already been levied for decades on outgoing travelers, designated a “passenger service charge”.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand, the departure tax varies from 400 baht to 700 baht depending on which airport passengers depart from. Travelers must pay 700 baht to leave Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, the country’s main international gateway.

The amount once had to be paid in cash on departure, infuriating millions of travelers. So Thai airport and tax officials buried it in airline ticket prices. The same tactics probably will be used with the tourism fee, which has no specific purpose other than to “support the tourism industry”.

In 2019, 39.9 million tourists spent 1.9 trillion baht in Thailand. They stayed on average a bit more than nine days, according to Tourism and Sports Ministry, and spent about 5,172 baht a day.

Adding yet another tax could crimp money flowing into the tourism sector, tourism promoters fear.

Backers of the levy claim the fee would be used to help transform Thailand from a low-budget destination to a more upscale market for international travelers.

“The additional cost won’t have an impact on tourists, as we want to focus on the quality market,” Tourism Authority of Thailand Gov. Yuthasak Supasorn told local media earlier this month. “We hope this fund will support a national tourism makeover to create more safe and clean places.”

Given Thailand’s endemic corruption – which increased exponentially during the coroanvirus pandemic as the usual means of graft were cut off – critics suggest the money will simply enrich Thailand’s already super-rich elite.

Tourists in Chiang Mai (Photo: Bangkok Herald)

The proposed tax could be implemented as early January the start of a year which the ever-delusonal TAT forecasts 10 million tourists arriving again. Few others are that optimistic. The Bank of Thailand expects only 6 million foreign travelers next year.

Reviving tourism is Job 1 for Thailand’s economic team. The sector that once accounted for as much as 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product has been basically dead since March 2020.

While some disagree with the government’s move to hit foreigners with a new charge just as they’re starting to return,  they agree the tourism industry needs a war chest.

Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, president of the Thailand Hotels Association Southern Chapter, said the money should be used to develop tourism projects that protect the environment and generate money for regions other than Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

“We need the fund for several purposes to make our tourism industry grow sustainably,” Kongsak said. “But I don’t think the fund should be obtained from tourists.”

He says the government should be the ones paying up and giving cash directly to each region – never a good idea given how local bureaucrats tend to buy new homes and Ferraris with government budgets.

Chairat Trirattanajaraspon, former chairman of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said he likes the idea of a tourism fund that could help businesses during the next pandemic or catostrophic event.

“I think this is a good time to implement the [tax], as the Covid-19 pandemic has already pointed out a clear need,” Chirat said.

Certainly, the government’s tourism bureacuracy could use an upgrade, particiularly in its woeful information-technology operation. Case in point: the recent leak of personal details from 106 million visitors that ended up on the internet.

The massive data breach contained each visitor’s full name, sex, passport number, residency status and visa type, along with their Thai arrival card number and date of arrival. It was discovered by a cybersecurity research firm on Aug. 22.

Thai authorities removed the data the next day, yet another example of the barn door hittng Thai government techies in the ass after the horse has been stolen.

Then there is the continuing dual-pricing situation that charges foreigners more than Thais without corresponding services that justify the added cost.

Once the new tax is implemented, international tourists may want to see an improvement what they’re getting to possibly justify the added fee.

error: Content is protected !!