The cabinet is going to decide on whether to start or postpone the 300-baht tourism fee collection from foreign visitors because the Tourism and Sports Ministry insists the project cannot be cancelled as it is an enforceable law.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakan said the ministry will take until the end of September to finish the last phase of its fee collection study, which focuses on land entry, before submitting it for cabinet approval.
He said the project, entitled “Thailand Traveller Fee”, is subject to the cabinet’s review, which could mean immediate enforcement or requesting that the ministry postpone the start date.
The ministry already prepared fee collection mechanisms, signing a memorandum of understanding with Krungthai Bank on Tuesday to handle such transactions via a website, mobile application, kiosks and air tickets.
“Fee collection is necessary for the country as the Budget Bureau no longer provides a welfare budget for tourists in case of emergencies, while the ministry’s fund for this purpose has a smaller budget remaining,” said Mr Phiphat.
Between 2017-2019, the government had to use almost 350 million baht per year of budget to compensate the Public Health Ministry after foreign tourists received medical services in public hospitals, then returned to their countries without paying their bills.
According to the National Tourism Policy Act of 2019, the 300-baht fee was legally approved by the former government and must be fully enforced. It cannot be abandoned, he said.
Mr Phiphat said of the 300-baht fee, almost 90% will be dedicated to raising the tourism standards to a global level seen at other leading destinations around the world, particularly in terms of using universal design for public facilities, which should be more user-friendly for people with physical impairments.
In the case of land entry, border pass holders not planning to stay overnight may be exempt from the fee, while those who stay overnight may be charged around 100-200 baht, he said.
Mr Phiphat said the ministry acknowledged some tourists voiced concerns over this idea as they already have their own insurance coverage.
In practice, the ministry frequently found that tourists have difficulty in claiming medical expenses in Thailand, are rejected or are unable to receive the full coverage they anticipated.
For tour groups that already mandate travel insurance, the ministry will hold further discussions with operators, requesting they waive this expense if the Thailand Traveller Fee becomes effective.