Thailand’s 300-baht tourism fee has been postponed again until September due to “issues” surrounding its implementation.
Tourism businesses are demanding greater clarity on the 300-baht tourism fee – commonly called the Tourist Tax – after Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn announced that the tax would not be collected on foreign arrivals by air, sea and land from June 2023, as expected.
Ratchakitprakarn said airlines had asked for a delay in the 300-baht tourism fee because they could not differentiate between foreign tourists, Thais and expatriates. Airlines insisted that all passengers must be treated equally. The Thai government has shown it has no interest in eliminating double-pricing of foreigners.
The advisory chairman of the Phuket Tourist Association, Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, called for consistency, arguing that if collection of the 300-baht tourism fee was postponed for air travelers it should also be pushed back for arrivals by land and sea. Bhummikitti recommended the establishment of a central organization solely responsible for fee collection and management for arrivals by air, sea, and land.
Bhummikitti noted that he agreed with the concept of a 300-baht tourism fee that is systematically collected and managed to help develop tourism destinations and communities, as well as cover the medical expenses of tourists in public hospitals.
He claimed without evidence that unpaid medical bills of tourists in Phuket amounted to more than 10 million baht annually.
Concerning the 150-baht tourist tax collection for entry via land, Bhummikitti stated that the measure could impact cross-border visitors such as Malaysian tourists in Songkhla, as they frequently visit Thailand every month for weekend breaks.
He urged the government to consider different contexts and adjust measures to accommodate short trips within a certain period.
Hotels Welcome Delay of 300-Baht Tourism Fee
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, welcomed the postponement of the 300-baht tourism fee, saying it would ease the burden for tourists to some extent as other travel costs surge. However, she emphasized that transparency in fee collection and fund management was critical for the scheme’s success.
Earlier, Ratchakitprakarn said 60-70% of the 300-baht tourism fee would be earmarked for a tourism fund, as stipulated in the 2009 National Tourism Policy Act, while 17% would be used for medical insurance for tourists.
Some suggestions called for hotels to help collect the fee, but Marisa opposed the idea, claiming that it would be unfair for tourists since Thailand still has many unregistered hotels, and these operators might not apply the same rules to their guests.
Thailand’s tourism industry is still in the recovery phase, lagging behind the level of arrivals recorded in 2019. The government hopes that the tourism fee will aid in the development of tourism destinations and communities while also covering tourists’ medical expenses.
The Tourist Tax was proposed by the National Tourism Policy Committee and has been under consideration since before the pandemic. It has been widely criticized by the tourism industry and received negative attention in worldwide media.
But Thailand is not alone among popular travel destinations in implementing visitor entrance fees. Europe was planning to launch its European Travel Information and Authorisation System in November, which requires a 7-euro fee for visitors 18-70 years old. Venice postponed a new tourist entry fee but it was expected to launch this year. Bhutan reopened last year and now requires a $200 daily visa fee.
Whilst many have voiced their concerns about a tourist entry fee to Thailand, it looks like there is no stopping the implementation of this new measure. As the country begins to return to prepandemic levels of tourism, the Cabinet has returned to the long-proposed tourist entry fee for foreign travellers, and on Tuesday confirmed its implementation.