BANGKOK — A controversial plan to charge foreign tourists 300 baht each time they step foot in the country, supposedly to pay for maintenance of attraction sites, was welcomed by a prominent tourism business guild on Friday.
Association of Thai Travel Agents president Vichit Prakobgosol said he believes the sum would not impact tourist arrivals, and money gained from the tax would benefit tourism infrastructure for Thailand. The government estimated that up to 3 billion baht could be raised annually if the policy is implemented.
“I don’t think 300 baht is a problem. I think foreigners can take it,” Vichit said. “The private sector supports the move since the money will go to prop up Thai tourism industry.”
The proposal has been on the discussion table for years, but it was finally approved by tourism minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan on Thursday. However, details of how the fee would be collected and when it would take effect have yet to be formally announced in the Royal Government Gazette.
A public document shows the government paid Naresuan University 4 million baht in September to study the feasibility of the plan.
Pipat said the money will contribute to a tourism development fund, which he aims to collect 3 billion baht by the end of this year – an ambitious, and perhaps improbable, estimate considering the ongoing coronavirus outbreak worldwide.
“It’s similar to Japan’s Sayonara tax,” Pipat said Friday, referring to a 1000-yen fee implemented by the Japanese government in 2019. “Our goal is to build assurance for tourists, as well as supporting business operators affected by the pandemic.”
His statement is somewhat misleading, since the ‘exit tax’ found in Japan and many other countries is marked as a fee to pay for aviation services and airport costs – traveling through land borders is generally exempted – whereas Thailand’s arrival fee would be implemented to every tourist regardless of their travel method.
And Thailand already charges visitors flying from overseas the ‘exit tax,’ which is included in the airline tickets.
The government’s claim that the new arrival fee would be used to pay for tourism attractions is also undercut by the fact that foreign tourists are already forced to pay premiums – even 10 times more than local residents in some cases – in many destinations across Thailand.
Tourism ministry perm sec Chote Trachu said the new tax was initially slated to be collected in 2020, but it was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down Thailand’s border and ravaged its tourism industry.
“We intended to collect the fee at the beginning of 2020, but there were no tourists as the coronavirus began to spread,” Chote said Thursday. “Now it’s an appropriate time to reinitiate the plan.”