From January, it could cost $40 to visit ThailandBy Asian Correspondent Oct 23, 2013 3:07PM UTC
A holiday to Thailand is set to get a little bit pricier from the start of next year. From January, Thailand plans to charge visitors staying longer than three days 1,200 baht (US$38.61) in arrival and departure taxes and fees.
Plans for a 500 baht entry fee, which is awaiting Cabinet approval, were announced this week by Thai Public Health Minister Pradit Sintavanarong, who wants the new measure implemented in January. Visitors to Thailand have been paying a 700 baht air departure tax since 2007, which often goes unnoticed as it is usually added onto the price of travellers’ air fares.
The new fee, which according to Thai officials, is being introduced to cover the costs of medical care for foreigners without insurance, has been in the pipeline for a while. In August, we reported:
The measure is meant to ease the pressure on public hospitals, where foreigners can receive medical treatment whether they have insurance or not. However, in some cases those bills never get paid, leaving the hospital more strapped for money and resources.
The Thai Health Ministry recommended that foreigners be required to pay for insurance at immigration checkpoints, or that the fee be added to the cost of an air ticket.
A recent article indicated that Australians in Phuket, the popular resort area that draws a number of ex-pats and retirees, have taken advantage of the health care at public hospitals, either without insurance or without the ability to pay the entire amount for their treatment. In that piece, Dr. Nara Kingkaew, deputy director of Vachira Public Hospital in Phuket, said that hospital alone had 4 million baht (nearly US$128,000) additional costs per year, directly linked to foreigners without insurance or who could not pay hospital bills. Many of those patients were Australian males needing treatment for motorbike-related accidents.
In an attempt to justify the new tax, which will net the country hundreds of millions of dollars, the Thai government has been making some dubious claims, such as that there are 100,000 foreigners in Thailand with expired visas. This figure has been widely reported, with no reference to the source. From the Bangkok Post:
The scheme would also prevent foreigners staying in the country after their visas have expired. There are about 100,000 foreigners in Thailand whose visas have expired but they refuse to leave the country, the reports said.
The Thai health minister also neglected to mention the 2.5 million people who traveled to Thailand in 2012 specifically for medical tourism.
In truth, the new entry-fee is likely to do little to dampen Thailand’s burgeoning tourism trade. More than 22 million people traveled to Thailand last year, and that figure looks set to top 25 million in 2013. The 500 baht fee has the support of the Ministry of Tourism and Sport, though the tourism sector is less pleased.
The Bangkok Post reports:
Samphan Panphat, adviser to the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said he disagreed with the 500-baht entry fee. It lacked transparency and would significantly hurt the tourism industry.
Authorities should specify the nationalities of tourists who might pose problems to Thailand, because there are many tourists from other countries who do not create problems when they come here, he said.
“The government should be take serious steps to solve the problems in the country and to improve the quality of tourism here. Then things will improve,” Mr Samphan said.
Sitdiwat Cheevarattanaporn, chairman of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), took the same tone, saying it is not a good move and not in line with the government’s plan to promote tourism.
“The plan will affect the tourism industry, both in the short run and the long run, because tourists will feel bad about Thailand and they may feel they are being cheated,” Mr Sitdiwat said.
Porntip Hirunket, vice chair of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said collecting entry fees from foreigners would dampen the tourism atmosphere.
Thailand is no stranger to so-called stealth taxes on tourists. In 2009 it introduced a 150 baht (US$4.80) government fee on all foreign ATM transactions. Some useful advice from Travelfish here on avoiding ATM fees in Thailand.