Thailand’s prime minister has pushed into the unknown a date for the introduction of a new 300 baht (US$9) tax on most foreign visitors. Prayut Chan-o-cha told a press briefing that the scheme needed more discussion, even though a start date of August or September had been indicated by the tourist ministry. The premier stressed that the surge in international arrivals meant that national income would steadily increase throughout the year without the surcharge.
The proposed tourist tax continues to hit the buffers, but to no surprise amongst travel gurus. Airlines would be expected to include the extra in the price of international tickets, but would need to find a way of excluding Thai nationals, diplomats, children under two years and all foreign work permit holders. However, most expats – even Elite card holders, retirees and those married to Thais – would be expected to pay even though they were not tourists. Some airlines had already intimated that the bureaucratic complexities of implementation were formidable to say the least.
Moreover, much confusion had been created by some government officials who had maintained that part of the proposed tax income would be reserved for tourist insurance even though 80 percent would be earmarked for physical improvements at tourist sites. In reality, there was never any intention to offer Covid or general medical insurance to foreigners by this route: eligibility would be restricted to death payments, bomb outrages and similar holiday hazards. Even in these rare scenarios, it was never explained how claims would actually be processed by hospitals.
A further unsolved problem was how to introduce the tax at land borders which have recently been reopened to international tourist traffic. The only suggestion to date was to collect the fee at kiosks located at the immigration checkpoints. But many foreigners would not have the correct change or would be trying to pay in their own currency, leading to mammoth queues as both international and local travellers waited in huge lines. Greg Watkins, a UK-based travel agent, summarized, “Thailand tourism is recovering quite nicely after the ending of Test and Go requirements. The last thing she needs now is a complex entry tax ideally suited to confusion, annoyance and bad publicity for the Land of Smiles.”