BANGKOK, 9 June 2017: Thailand’s Committee of National Tourism Policy has ordered the Office of Insurance Commission to review a project that would require all visitors to buy compulsory travel insurance when visiting the country.
Bangkokbiz News quoted the committee president and deputy prime minister, Thanasak Patimaprakorn, saying that authorities have assigned the OIC to formulate travel insurance for travellers who will have to demonstrate they have adequate health insurance when they visit Thailand.
“The OIC will study a suitable format for travel insurance that would include accident and health insurance cover for travellers…however, it should not be a burden or an obstacle that might convince travellers to avoid visiting the country.”
Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattavrangkul said there no conclusion has been reached on insurance because there are obstacles that might make it difficult enforce for both tour groups and independent travellers.
The Ministry of Public Health suggested having insurance would reduce the burden on the country’s hospitals.
However, it has not been decided yet whether the project should be funded under a government scheme or should enlist private insurance companies to offer cover at airports and checkpoints. There is also the question of travellers who buy their own insurance cover in their home country in advance and whether that kind of cover would be accepted or would they still be required to buy additional cover on arrival?
The OIC will draft details on insurance policies and insurance distribution channels, including the installation of automatic vending machines at international airports and border checkpoints.
Foreign travellers would be able to purchase travel insurance via a website in advance, or at vending machines located in airports and land checkpoints.
The insurance proposal was first introduced, in 2014, 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. However, there have an increase in cases where foreigners involved in accidents had no insurance, or their insurance policies were made void due to the nature of the accident.
Travel executives have warned that checking whether visitors have insurance cover would increase queues at immigration checkpoints. There have also been suggestions that it technically it should be the responsibility of the Public Health Department to check visitors rather than immigration.