Tourism levy mulled

Tourism levy mulled

Tax could cover pandemic insurance

Tourists and officers at Suvarnabhumi airport wear face masks. Travellers entering Thailand via air travel could be charged a new tax as part of their tickets. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)
Tourists and officers at Suvarnabhumi airport wear face masks. Travellers entering Thailand via air travel could be charged a new tax as part of their tickets. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

The Tourism and Sports Ministry is considering a tax of 300 baht or less per person for foreign arrivals that could cover pandemic insurance, once inbound flights and tourism activities resume in the country.

Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said the tax would be collected once foreigners arrive by air, land or sea transport.

The scheme is part of the 20-year national strategic plan that requires government agencies to have recurring income to sustain and stabilise the national economy.

The levy will be added to the tourism fund managed by the ministry that aims to rebuild and develop tourism supply chains here, as well as offer safety and security protection for tourists.

He said this idea was initiated last year but was delayed because of the pandemic. Now is the right time to initiate collection, said Mr Phiphat.

The goal is to have tourists entering via air travel charged as a part of their air tickets, but the government has not finalised how collection for land and sea transport would work.

"The pandemic has had a severe impact on tourism confidence, and the tourism fund should set aside a budget for state agencies to carry on when looking after tourists affected by the pandemic," he said.

Mr Phiphat said the ministry assigned Naresuan University to conduct a feasibility study on a reasonable tax burden for visitors. The ministry estimates the maximum should not exceed 300 baht per person.

He said Japan implemented similar measures, commencing a departure tax of ¥1,000 [around 300 baht] per person.

Mr Phiphat favours a levy of 100-200 baht.

After the feasibility study is finished, the ministry will submit it to the cabinet for approval. The ministry intends to announce the new tax before the fourth quarter to let tourists prepare, he said.

"The Tourism Authority of Thailand's [TAT] new target is 16 million arrivals this year, but I'm not optimistic we can reach that goal as international tourists will not come back before the fourth quarter. Compared with the last quarter of 2019, when we had 11-12 million arrivals, the new goal is too high amid these circumstances," said Mr Phiphat.

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the amendment of the National Tourism Policy Act at the end of last year allows the ministry to tax foreign tourists. The ministry's measures are part of the long-term tourism development plan.

"As long as Thailand has a clear plan on how to use the fund effectively and benefit international tourists, it should not create any obstacles," said Mr Yuthasak.

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