New tourist tax on hold for umpteenth time

Collection issues still delay the imposition of the Thai tourist tax on most foreigners.

Thailand’s much-anticipated 300 baht levy on tourist arrivals by air (150 baht by land or sea) won’t be starting in September after all. Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the matter would need to be resolved by the incoming government which is unlikely to be in office before mid August.

The proposed tax revenue is bedeviled by collection issues since it does not apply to Thais or foreign permanent residents (identified as those who can stay in Thailand indefinitely without a due date in their passport) and holders of Thai work permits. Airlines had complained that it would be impossible for them to include the fee in international tickets unless the fee applied to all passengers. Suggestions that the exempt groups could reclaim the 300 baht at a later stage had been dismissed as tedious and elaborate.

Another idea has been that collection booths should be opened at both airports and border posts which risks huge queues forming as weary travellers try to use electronic methods or offer cash in several currencies requiring change. Land border entries pose further difficulties as Cambodian, Malaysian or Myanmar traders who cross daily into Thailand would be another exempt category along with tourists not staying longer than 24 hours.

Last month, it was suggested by government ministers that the whole strategy and cash collection be handed to a private organization. However, no new ideas have been forthcoming apart from the suggestion that affected arrivals should pay in advance of their journey to a specialist government website. Critics pointed out that such an unwieldy, extra bureaucracy was a bad marketing strategy for a tourist-dependent economy such as Thailand.

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said it would be best to defer the scheme until Thailand is back-to-normal next year. A spokesman for Your Asian Dreams said it was still unclear how the income would be spent. “But it appears to be a government slush fund to enhance tourist attractions such as temples and to provide compensation for major incidents such as minibus crashes or boats sinking.” It is significant that the scheme has not been published in the Royal Gazette which means that no start date has been approved.