BANGKOK – Visitors heading to Thailand for some New Year sunshine could find themselves charged around £40 per family upon arriving in the country by plane.
Thai tourist authorities are said to be considering charging every tourist a 500baht (around £10) fee upon landing for visitors staying for a duration longer than three days. If the bill is passed then fees could be introduced as early as January 1st although travellers crossing land borders into the country would only pay a 30 baht (around 60pence) tax.
Thailand’s Public Health Minister Pradit Sintavanarong told the Bangkok Post that officials from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Ministry of Public Health and the Royal Thai Police were in agreement that the fee should be introduced.
Mr Pradit said the move would help promote the country to a different type of tourist: “Now is the time for us to have quality tourists. It’s not as if inbound tour operators won’t organise tours for foreign tourists to come to the country because of the entry fees.”
Although a date of New Year’s Day 2014 has been set to introduce the tax, the measure may be postponed to avoid ‘confusing’ tourists in what is the country’s peak season.
As well as boosting funding – the money would go towards “tourism, health and foreign affairs ministries, and the Immigration Bureau,” said Mr Pradit – the new measures will also work to ensure that visitors would be unable to outstay their visa, something which is currently a significant problem with around 100,000 foreigners reported to be in the country on expired visas.
The tourism industry hasn’t responded favourably to the suggestion.
Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) chairmanSitdiwat Cheevarattanaporn said the move would potentially harm the lucrative holiday market. “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.
Tourism has boomed in the Asian country since the backpacker trail ignited enthusiasm for it in the seventies. Visitor figures in 2013 are set to be the highest ever, with current arrivals suggesting tourists are already up 20 per cent on 2012.