Pandemic tax looms for all visitors to Thailand

Local | Agencies and staff reporter 13 May 2020

Hong Kong tourists visiting Thailand could face an extra tax of 300 baht (just over HK$73) to cover pandemic insurance once flights and tourism resume.

Thailand's tourism and sports ministry is considering a tax on all foreign arrivals.

Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the minister, said the tax would be collected once foreigners arrive by air, land or sea transport, the Bangkok Post reported.

Tourism-sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the tourism tax would not have much impact on Hongkongers' desire to visit Thailand, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southeast Asia.

"The levy amount is not big at all," he said. "After all, flight tickets to Thailand and consumption in the country are very reasonable and suits Hong Kong people's affordability. It would still be a good option for group tours and individual travelers."

Yiu said it is uncommon for a country to buy insurance for tourists against diseases and infections such as Covid-19.

"But it's good to offer extra protection to visitors. It may make the country more appealing to tourists," he said.

The scheme is part of the 20-year national strategic plan that requires government agencies to have recurring income to sustain and stabilize the national economy.

The levy will be added to the tourism fund managed by the ministry that aims to rebuild and develop tourism supply chains here, as well as offer safety and security protection for tourists.

Phiphat said this idea was initiated last year but was delayed because of the pandemic.

Now was the right time to initiate collection.

The goal was to have tourists entering via air travel charged as a part of ticketing.

"The pandemic has had a severe impact on tourism confidence, and the tourism fund should set aside a budget for state agencies to carry on when looking after tourists affected by the pandemic," he said.

Phiphat said Japan implemented similar measures, with a departure tax of 1,000 yen (HK$72) per person.

After the feasibility study is finished, the ministry will submit it to the cabinet for approval. The ministry intends to announce the new tax before the fourth quarter to let tourists prepare, he said.

"The Tourism Authority of Thailand's new target is 16 million arrivals this year, but I'm not optimistic we can reach that goal as international tourists will not come back before the fourth quarter," Phiphat said.

"Compared with the last quarter of 2019, when we had 11 million to 12 million arrivals, the new goal is too high amid these circumstances.

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the amendment of the National Tourism Policy Act at the end of last year allows the ministry to tax foreign tourists. The ministry's measures are part of the long-term tourism development plan.

"As long as Thailand has a clear plan on how to use the fund effectively and benefit international tourists, it should not create any obstacles," said Yuthasak.

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