BANGKOK — The government is pushing ahead with a contentious proposal to charge every tourist for simply stepping foot in Thailand, a move that may complicate Thailand’s efforts to build back the tourism industry ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
A fee of 300 baht per tourist was initially approved by the government in January. Officials said the fund would be used to develop and maintain tourism destinations around the country. The proposal is now back on the table, and the amount of money the government intended to charge visitors has increased to 500 baht.
Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn told the media the extra 200 baht will be spent on unspecified projects that will “transform” the country’s tourism model, from mass market to a more “high-value,” environmentally friendly mode of operation. He did not elaborate on the nature of the projects.
Yuthasak also said he’s pretty sure tourists won’t mind paying the 500 baht, and added that the charge will be effective from next year onward. He hoped the fee will bring in 5 billion baht for the government within the first year alone – assuming that up to 10 million tourists visit Thailand in 2022.
The proposal of a “tourism fee” has been on the discussion table for years, but it was finally approved by tourism minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan back in January, though the idea was never actually implemented so far.
“It’s similar to Japan’s Sayonara tax,” Pipat said at the time, referring to a 1000-yen fee imposed by the Japanese government in 2019.
But his statement was 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 proposed arrival fee would be implemented to every tourist regardless of their travel method.
And that’s not to mention that 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, a system known as dual pricing.