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Will Thailand introduce a new tax on foreign tourists?

Information circulated on Tuesday that both Ministers of Public Health and Sports & Tourism agreed to levy a tax – or a fee- on each traveller arriving into the Kingdom. Officially to fund health insurances, immigration and tourism initiatives… But most likely to just fill up the coffers of the State.

BANGKOK- Is Thailand also succumbing to the charms of tourism taxation? This seems to be the case by referring to an article published in the Bangkok Post on October 21 mentioning a conversation with Thailand Minister of Public Health Pradit Sintavanarong. The plan cooked by his Ministry in accordance with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports as well as the Royal Thai Police would be set at THB 500 per entry (US$ 16).

And while the Thai administration is notoriously slow to take any strategic decision, the implementation of the new tax would come very rapidly: on January 1st, 2014 – in the midst of the high season peak-, according to the Minister. All governmental entities expect that the extra charge would lead to an increase in the quality of tourists entering Thailand. “The tourism and sports minister told me that every other country is collecting entry fees from foreigners. The money will be used for many purposes by the tourism, health and foreign affairs ministries, and the Immigration Bureau,” explained the Minister to the Bangkok Post.

The charge would be implemented for any tourist considering to stay more than three days in the country. However, travellers crossing land borders would be required to pay a reduced entry fee of only THB 30, especially as they can only remain in the Kingdom for a period of 14 days. The new scheme will also help to better control visitors overstaying in the country after their visa has expired.

According to the Bangkok Post, the Ministry of Public Health would gather relevant information and help the Ministry of the Interior setting the new law. While the date of January 1st has already been set, the measure could be slightly delayed –by two weeks- to avoid confusing travellers entering the country on that time.

The tourism industry has of course not responded favourably to the idea. Asked by the Bangkok Post, Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) chairman Sitdiwat Cheevarattanaporn said that such a move would likely harm the lucrative tourism market. “The plan will affect the tourism industry, both in the short run and the long run, because tourists will feel bad about Thailand and they may feel they are being cheated,” he indicated. Porntip Hirunket, vice chair of the Tourism Council of Thailand, also told the newspaper that collecting entry fees from foreigners would dampen the tourism atmosphere. Authorities should better enforcing the existing laws and preventing tourists of being involved into scams, she declared.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.