Opposition to proposed tourist tax intensifies

A 300 baht tourist tax now is akin to shooting yourself in the foot.

The decision of the Thai government to introduce a 300 baht (US$8) entry tax on foreign tourists from early next year is proving increasingly contentious. The main political opposition party Pheu Thai has already condemned the notion as pointless and unworkable. According to a report in the Bangkok Post, Air Asia X has now criticized the tax as unnecessary as the key to future tourism is a growing number of arrivals rather than financial penalties for choosing Thailand as a holiday destination.

One of the many imponderables about the proposed tax is how it will be collected. Airlines could include the extra 300 baht in tickets, but the tax does not apply to Thai nationals or to foreigners, such as work permit holders, who pay into the country’s social security system. Diplomats are also believed to be exempt. Several European airlines voiced these practical concerns when asked to participate in a pilot earlier in the year.

It is also unclear how the cash would be collected at Thai land borders where lengthy queues are already common, even without the grim prospect of tax collection in many currencies either in cash or via credit cards. Thai authorities have justified the tax as necessary to provide medical insurance for tourists, but no details have been forthcoming. Most of the cash, it was later revealed, would be spent on repairing tourist infrastructure.

Revenue from tourism contributes around 17 percent of Thailand’s GDP. Outside of government circles, the consensus now is to encourage more international visitors in an era when neighboring countries are pulling out all the stops to expand their own attractions to foreign arrivals. The Manchester-based Exotic Travel described the 300 baht idea as “shooting yourself in the foot”.