Thailand’s timing out on welcome tax

BANGKOK, 5 October 2021: The timing is out on Thailand’s announcement that it will impose an additional THB500 fee on foreigners entering the country sometime next year.

Someone has lost touch with the bellwether’s warning that travellers are fed up with the increased costs associated with a visit to Thailand. Yet it is about to add another cost, and it won’t go down well with leisure travellers keen to keep travel expenses down in the wake of Covid-19.

It’s not that they can’t afford THB500 to fund improvements to the country’s tourism infrastructure, but when all the other mandatory costs are taken into account, it sends a negative message – greed is at play.

As the country heads for less than 300,000 tourists this year, can we honestly believe Thailand will reach 10 million next year when the Covid-19 pandemic ebbs and flows like a deadly riptide? 

The Bangkok Post broke the bad news on the new tax at the weekend, quoting Ministry of Tourism and Sports officials who claim the THB500 donation will feed the country’s “Tourism Transformation Fund.” They have to be joking. At best, the ministry has set a 10 million tourist arrivals next year, but the reality could be considerably south of that estimate. Then the arithmetic on the cost of collecting the tax will kick in. On 40 million tourist arrivals passing through land, air and sea checkpoints, the tax might well be worth the collection headaches, but then you have to factor in seepage and evaporation, definitely negative factors at many land borders. But the tax might be limited to affluent air travellers arriving at international airports rather than overland tourists, which again reduces the potential fundraising campaign.

One of the country’s most popular English Language bloggers, Richard Barrow, said he assumed the THB500 would be added to the fees travellers pay when they buy an air ticket that already includes a THB700 airport tax.

He correctly notes that foreign visitors are already paying over the odds when they visit national parks and a host of other attractions and services, including hospitals that adhere to a dual pricing policy. For example, Thais pay THB40 to enter a national park while foreigners pay THB400 for the same experience.

The new tourist tax or fee has jumped the bureaucratic hoops to achieve approval. It just remains for the tourism minister to wave the green flag. But the travel industry certainly believes it’s an understatement to say the timing is out.

We are talking about a prolonged recovery from Covid-19 that will take us possibly to 2026 to recover lost ground and get us back to 2018 or 2019 tourist totals. When that day dawns, collecting a THB500 fee might make financial sense for the authorities. However, they should recognise that it will never make sense to tourists. They are fast becoming disillusioned with Thailand as holiday costs escalate. As we learn to live with Covid-19 in the years to come, we will also see the tourism landscape shift. Countries that are winners today could become the losers of tomorrow, as competitors seize the moment to offer a better holiday deal and experience where the welcome mat actually means what it says.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Greedy greedy government. The world has seen the never ending queues of Thais patiently waiting hours, sometimes in the rain, for food hand outs ! Congratulations are due to the many expats all over the country that have worked hard to do collects and food kitchens . Thailand, who constantly boast their greatness and good governance cannot even help their own people. As for tourists , they just see the $ sign lighting up and think they can get away with every sort of action, such as insults coming from a minister , to ridiculous hoops to jump through which are costly to the average tourist.
    The average tourist is not fighting to get in to Thailand, and won’t be for a very long time as long as this mean attitude prevails. The slogan has been Rip off Thailand for a long time now. Wealthy tourists will go elsewhere, they have a very large choice of beautiful islands and countries . Why would they flock to Thailand and spend their millions to see the failing infrastructure of Thailand and the lack of investment in tourist structure that has long been inexistant? Shanty towns come to mind, Bangkok excepted, but don’t look behind the curtain !

  2. Seepage and evaporation…. Thats answered the question of what happens to my money in my pocket and thought it was the washing machine….

  3. Have been to Thailand 6 times and I am sick of being treated as an ATM. Beautiful country but there are so many others. Never again Thailand. Find yourself new suckers . Michael

  4. Where will taxed money really goes to? I am guessing there will be a leakage along the way. I have to re-evaluate my plan to visit Thailand when it is open without any crazy restrictions. It is really too bad because Thailand is a wonderful country to visit and the best food.

  5. In November myself, my wife and two friends had 3.5 weeks booked in Koh Chang. Local run/ owned places not the chains ( despite us all having elite status whlith many that would’ve gotten us free upgrades etc) and for my birthday on the 12th I’d asked for Thai money only with the idea to be that I’d spend the day going around small mom n pop places and giving them a cash gift to help them as a way of supporting the country we all love to visit.

    Because of all the restrictions and costs involved we’re now going to the Caribbean to stay at an all inclusive resort instead.

    THAT is the direct result of the Gov constantly changing its mind and having so many restrictions and additional costs to the trip.

    I don’t fly half way round the world to have my holiday dictated to me. I’ll take my money where I can enjoy myself as I decide not some beaurocrat

  6. Destinations like Indonesia and Vietnam must be delighted with Thailand’s support to direct business in their direction> I pity the TAT team and even more the tourism industries’ stakeholders.

  7. Why TAT say they don’t want tourist
    It’s a daylight robbery
    Is Thailand want tourism people must know where is the money going in who’s pocket

  8. Don…those people do not know how to run or even walk to the destination, needless to say,of how to come up with attractive issue($) of welcoming back tourists or visitors to Thailand!

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