At a time when tourism sector is still ravaged by the impacts of Covid-19, Thailand's National Tourism Policy Committee has approved the proposed guidelines for the collection of a 300-baht tourism fee from international visitors arriving in the country.
Thailand's Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the 300 baht (US$10) will go towards a tourism promotion fund, which will be used to develop tourist destinations as well as providing visitors with insurance benefits while in the country.
The fee collection is expected to bring in 3 billion baht based on the projected number of 10 million visitors in 2021. However, details of how the fee would be collected and when it would take effect have yet to be formally announced in the Thai Royal Gazette.
Tourism operators, while largely in agreement with the National Tourism Policy Committee’s move, have expressed concerns over the management of the collected money and hope the government will guarantee transparency and true benefits for tourists and tourism.
It is paramount that the Thai government and the private sector create understanding among tourists that the fee would be beneficial to them and support the sustainable development of tourist destinations, said Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents.
The association head believed that tourists would understand and agree to pay the fee, but urged that a cross-section of industry, including tourism operators, would be appointed as representatives in the fund management committee. "This would ensure transparency, credibility and the maximum benefits of tourism and people in the sector," he said.
Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic has also demonstrated the necessity of a tourism fund, as it would relieve the government’s burdens in the event of future crises, opined Vichit.
Besides, the fee’s contribution to visitors’ insurance would protect taxpayers’ money which had been used to cover foreign visitors in accidents, said Surawat Akaraworamat, managing director of Good Luck Express.
A part of the fee could also go towards rehabilitation of tourist attractions damaged by overtourism in the past, he added.
Like Vichit, Surawat believed that the tourism fee would not affect tourists’ decision to visit Thailand despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, or have any impact on the competitiveness of the country as a tourist destination in future.
He added that many countries already impose a similar fee on tourists, and that Thailand's amount was not high and would in fact benefit visitors on the insurance front.
On the other hand, Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), expressed concerns that the tourism fee collection would increase the financial burdens of tourists, especially those in low and medium levels, despite the long-term benefits the move is expected to bring.
"This could affect prices of tour packages or room rates. Therefore, the government would have to thoroughly study relevant factors before finalising details about the fee collection", said the THA head.