BANGKOK, 31 August 2015: Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports says it will revive a proposal that would require independent international travellers to buy travel insurance when visiting Thailand.
The proposal was first introduced, last year, but was not given the kind of support the ministry was expecting. In fact, it was lambasted by the country’s travel industry for proposing an unwieldy, unmanageable scheme that was for the majority of visitors redundant. Travel leaders, in the private sector, argued that most tourists took out their own insurance before they left their homelands.
But the 17 August bomb attack at the Erawan Shrine that left 20 dead of which 11 were tourists has prompted an urgent rethink.
Talks are scheduled with the Ministry of Finance and related organisations on how to create a simple and streamlined process that would sell insurance to travellers on arrival in the country.
Tourism and Sports Minister, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, said the ministry has been seeking ways to force FIT tourists travelling to Thailand to buy travel insurance particularly those from Asian countries.
“Those who travel to Thailand will be required to buy travel insurance, which would cover accident or an incident like the explosion at Erawan Shrine in Ratchaprasong area on 17 August…tourists only received compensation from the ministry and financial supports from associations.”
Travel industry leaders say it will send a negative message suggesting the country’s administration believes there is a risk, but it is not willing to shoulder the cost of insuring against it.
Considering the massive earnings tourism delivers every week, the compensation paid out to the families of those who were killed at the shrine was a very small percentage of the tourism-related revenue earned for the national coffers.
She admitted: “The recent blast is a crucial factor alerting the ministry to reconsider a travel insurance scheme for FIT visitors, which is different from travellers who are served by tour operators … they already have travel insurance.”
The ministry will also talk to Office of Insurance Commission to balance benefit for all companies avoiding to give privilege for some companies.
“There are a lot of details that we have to discuss to give full benefit to tourists and meet relevant organisations agreement,” the minister said.
Veteran travel executives, who say the scheme sends out a very negative message on security, believe providing a safe, secure environment should be the priority of government. If insurance is needed they say, the government should take out a policy that insures it against compensation claims .
“The government can insure against the risk with specialised brokers as it does when it buys aircraft for the military or the national airline,” a travel veteran told TTR Weekly. “They should not be asking travellers to insure against the risk of a terror attack. It is wasteful expense… however, they can certainly recommend that travellers take out travel insurance… but if there is a lapse of security on the scale of the Erawan Shrine then the government should have its own insurance cover to settle claims.”
The tourism ministry deputy permanent secretary, Kajorn Weerajai, said the ministry had allocated THB200 million for its tourist compensation fund in the 2015 fiscal year. It gave no details of past pay-outs, or how claims were made.
However, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Department of Rights and Liberty Protection did provide compensation for the injured and families of the deceased resulting from the 17 August Erawan Shrine bomb attack. Currently, 12 victims have been compensated at a cost of THB3.6 million.