The controversial 300-baht tourism fee is set to be reviewed by the Cabinet at the end of the month. They may decide to enact it or postpone the implementation to a later date. But, according to the Minister of Tourism and Sports Pipat Ratchakitprakarn, the fee is not going away. He says it is already set in law and can’t be cancelled, just delayed.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports is finishing up its study on the effects of the tourism fee. The final phase should be completed this week and is focused on collecting the fee on land entries into Thailand. The Thailand Traveller Fee could then be enacted by the Cabinet right away, or put off to a later date.
Just in case though, the Ministry already inked a deal with Krungsri Bank yesterday to handle the financial side of the fee. They will set up and maintain kiosks, a mobile app, and a website payment portal as well as collect the tourism fee incorporated into air tickets.
Tourism industry professionals and companies have protested the fee, as the industry is finally starting to see some profitability again after being decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic for over two years. Many are frustrated that as the industry fights economic woes, expensive and limited flights, and other obstacles, the government is imposing another tourist deterrent.
But supporters of the tourism fee say the 300 baht is necessary to provide money for emergencies with tourists, especially after the disasters caused by Covid. Many tourists carry travel insurance, making this fee unnecessary, but Pipat says travellers often have insurance claims from Thailand rejected.
Tour groups that require mandatory insurance may be able to get a waiver for the tourism fee. Border pass holders who frequently pass in and out of Thailand for various reasons will likewise be exempted if they make a day trip, and possibly charged a lower fee if they do stay the night.
But the amount lost to tourist emergencies previously is no small figure. Foreigners receiving medical treatments between 2017 and 2019 who then skipped out on their bills and left Thailand amounted to nearly 350 million baht. The Ministry of Public Health had to collect this money from the government to pay hospitals. The Tourism Minister acknowledge the need to replenish the government’s emergency coffers.
“Fee collection is necessary for the country as the Budget Bureau no longer provides a welfare budget for tourists in case of emergencies, while the ministry’s fund for this purpose has a smaller budget remaining.”
Money collected will pay for more than ditched hospital bills though. If tourism reaches the pre-pandemic levels again, the fee would generate about 12 billion baht a year. Nearly 90% of that will be earmarked to projects like catching Thailand up with universal accessibility designs for public facilities. This and other investments would raise the standard of tourism to be in line with other popular tourist destinations.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
Published by The Thaiger 28.September 2022