The tourism industry is requesting much clearer guidelines on the implementation of the much-discussed 300 baht tourism fee, which the caretaker Minister for Tourism and Sports, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, has, again, postponed until September due to “difficulties in enforcing it”.
Meanwhile, the number of daily international arrivals in Thailand has fallen more than 15% since February.
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According to the minister, the airlines have stated that they cannot differentiate between foreign tourists, Thais, and expatriates, and therefore, all passengers must be treated equally. The Minister had earlier said that locals and expats with a valid work permit would be exempt from the tax.
Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, advisory chairman of the Phuket Tourist Association, is calling for a central organisation to manage and collect fees for arrivals by air, sea and land, rather than relying on the airlines to act as the tax collector.
Mr Bhummikitti says he supports the implementation of a tourism fee that would, if used as described, help promote tourism destinations and cover the medical expenses of tourists in public hospitals, which amount to more than 10 million baht per year in Phuket alone.
He suggests that if the fee collection is delayed for air travellers, it should be postponed for arrivals by land and sea to ensure consistency. Additionally, he believes that the government should take into account the different contexts of cross-border visitors, such as Malaysian tourists in Songkhla, who frequently visit Thailand often for short trips and ‘weekenders’.
Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, supports the delay in the tourist tax collection, as it could help ease the financial burden for tourists as other travel costs increase. She emphasises that transparency in fund management is crucial for the scheme’s success.
According to Minister Phiphat, 60-70% of the fee would go towards a tourism fund, as stated in the 2009 National Tourism Policy Act, while 17% will be used for medical insurance for tourists (details unspecified).
While some have suggested that hotels collect the fee, Mrs Marisa believes this would be unfair, as many Thai hotels are unregistered and may not apply the same rules to their guests.
In Phuket, alone, the number of daily foreign arrivals has dropped to an average of 10,035 in April, compared to an average of 11,734 in March. The March numbers were also a fall from February’s average. The leading international arrivals in April have been (in order) from Russia, China, Australia, India and the UK.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post