THAILAND has been in the press a lot recently, and not always for the best reasons.
Following the heroic rescue of 12 young Thai boys and their coach earlier this month from the Tham Luang cave in the Chiang Rai province, Thailand has been caught up in a series of adverse events.
One of these being the tragic boat accident on the southern Thai island of Phuket which left 47 people dead; all of whom were Chinese nationals.
The incident led to thousands of hotel bookings being canceled and caused a drastic fall in Chinese visitor numbers to the country.
But Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly committee on religion, culture, and tourism are refusing to let this accident damage the nation’s reputation as a number one vacation spot among Chinese travellers.
A specially organised seminar, held last week in Bangkok, discussed proposals on how to entice Chinese tourists back to the country and how to ensure their safety.
One initiative, in particular, piqued the interest of Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat. The idea was to make travel insurance compulsory for all foreign visitors.
The seminar heard how the boat accident cost Thailand THB64 million (US$1.9 million) in compensation, which was paid to the victim’s families.
This payout has led to Thailand’s tourist protection fund being just one major incident away from going bust.
However, this isn’t the first time Thailand has floated the idea of obligatory travel insurance.
Back in June, Thailand’s tourism officials submitted proposals to make travel insurance compulsory after an estimated TBH3,000,000,000 (US$9.2 million) in unpaid hospital bills were racked up by foreign visitors.
These bills, unlike in the US, are then absorbed by Thailand’s health service.
The travel insurance proposal has not been enforced but the Bangkok Post reported that the Office of the Insurance Commission will be working to establish insurance distribution channels, such as insurance vending machines at international airports.
At another event earlier this month, Weerasak outlined four areas of tourism focus for 2019, these included “no compromising on safety.”
Weerasak recognised that too many safety-jeopardising incidents happen in Thailand, “although nobody wants them to happen,” he added.
“If we become known as a country that does not compromise on safety, it will become another plus point for us to be recognised for not being ‘lax’ in our standards.”
Thailand’s newfound attention to ensuring safety is tip-top across the nation, combined with the potential introduction of compulsory travel insurance, will result in a reduced risk to travellers.
The cost of travel insurance is also minimal compared to the huge expense of having to fork out privately for all medical expenses incurred on vacation if something were to happen. Travellers being medically covered will also reduce the burden on Thailand’s healthcare system.
The compulsory insurance proposal also coincides with Thailand being named as one of the world’s riskiest places, based on the number of insurance claims made. This accolade only illustrates the crucial need for travel insurance.
This article originally appeared on our sister site Travel Wire Asia.