The Cabinet is set to rule on whether Thailand will start charging international tourists a fee to enter the country.
According to Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the Cabinet will be asked to consider implementing the fee, dubbed the “Thailand Traveller Fee”, during a meeting scheduled for some time in October.
Mr Phiphat said that a study into the proposed fee is set to be completed within the coming days before it will be presented to the Cabinet.
If approved, the Cabinet could order immediate collection of the fee or it could request collection of the fee be postponed.
Under the current proposals, foreigners arriving in Thailand by air would be charged 300 baht, while those arriving by land, sea or rail could be charged between 100 and 200 baht.
“If the Cabinet approves the fees, we will start to collect the fees soon,” Mr Phipat said.
Tourism fee a question of when, not if
Speaking to Thai language media, Mr Phipat said that there is a legal requirement for Thailand to implement the so-called tourism fee and therefore the existing proposal can not be scrapped.
Mr Phipat said that the fee had already been approved by the previous government, forms part of the National Tourism Policy Act of 2019 and must be enforced.
One of the things the Cabinet must decide is when collection of the fee will come into effect.
The revenue generated from the fee will go towards a number of different uses, such as the upkeep of tourist sites, infrastructure and sustainable development, as well as going towards an insurance fund for foreign tourists.
The fund will help tourists in the event of an emergency, such as accidents, sudden sickness or death.
Between 2017-2019, the Thai government spent more than 700 million baht compensating the Public Health Ministry after uninsured foreign tourists had received medical treatment in Thailand but had left the country without paying their bills.
Mr Phipat said that a memorandum of understanding has been signed with Krung Thai Bank to implement a payment system to facilitate the collection of the fee and handle transactions via a website, smartphone application and via air ticketing systems.
Previous proposals of the fee stated that tourists would be eligible for a maximum of 500,000 baht for medical expenses should they have an accident or fall ill.
Meanwhile, in the event of death, the tourist’s family would be eligible for maximum compensation of up to 1 million baht.
Thai nationals would be exempt from paying the fee.
Critics say the fee would potentially put people off from visiting Thailand in favour of other destinations.
However, those in favour say such a fee is a good way to generate additional income for the Thai economy and help to make its tourism industry more sustainable.
Thailand is not alone in taxing international tourists.
Many countries around the world, including Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, France, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Bali in Indonesia, as well as most Caribbean islands, have implemented some form of tourist tax.