Update: The Ministry of Finance said on April 26, 2019, that it has withdrawn the idea.
BANGKOK — The Ministry of Tourism clarified Tuesday that a proposal to provide cash handouts to tourists visiting lesser-known provinces has yet to be approved by the cabinet.
The idea, which calls for an award of 1,500 baht to Thais traveling “off the beaten track”, was not among the topics discussed in today’s weekly cabinet meeting, Tourism Minister Weerasak Kowsurat told reporters.
Weerasak said he has not even seen the proposal in person.
“I only saw what the media reported,” the minister said. “I don’t know about the details.”
Nonetheless the minister confirmed his support for the idea, saying any policy which injects revenue into tourist destinations is a sound one.
Quoting sources in the finance ministry, media agencies reported earlier this week that officials were considering the subsidy as a measure to promote traffic to what the authorities call muang rong or “Secondary Cities” – 44 provinces which receive fewer tourists than big names like Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Under the proposal, up to 10 million Thais would be eligible for the payout, which must be used by June. Cash would be distributed to electronic wallets, and accepted by shops and hotels that join the program.
Cities designated as muang rong include Mae Hong Son, Si Saket and Prachinburi.
Some netizens responded to the idea by suggesting the government save the money for more pressing matters like public healthcare, while a regional tourism guild said the authorities should also engage in more sustainable approaches to promoting sightseeing.
Northern Tourism Federation chairman Kitti Tissakul said he welcomed the idea but urged the government to also invest in infrastructure and encourage more tourists to buy local products.
“Giving people money to travel to secondary cities should not be the only measure,” Kitti said.