The tourism and sports minister has confirmed that collection of the 300-baht tourism fee will not be delayed beyond September, while the ministry plans to ask provincial police to support the tourism police in its operations to clear out "zero-dollar tours" and illegal tours.
Tourists crowd the arrivals hall at Suvarnabhumi airport. Foreign arrivals by air are charged 300 baht for the tourism fee, while travellers via land and sea pay 150 baht. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the fee will not be cancelled, although the collection method of adding it to airfares was criticised by airlines as selective, claiming it violated the International Air Transport Association's Chicago convention that prioritises equality.
He said the ministry is considering outsourcing to give external organisations responsibility for fee collection for all three methods of entry -- air, land and sea -- through online applications, websites or kiosks.
Foreign arrivals by air are charged 300 baht, while travellers via land and sea must pay 150 baht.
A tourism fund is expected to be established by using 60-70% of the fees, helping to develop tourism destinations and new infrastructure such as universal design for public services to create more accessibility, bathrooms and skywalks, said Mr Phiphat.
As concerns over zero-dollar tours mount, he said the ministry will seek support from provincial police, which have more than 200,000 officers nationwide, to help 2,000 tourist police officers crack down on these illegal businesses.
"The ministry will seek support from provincial police to help tourist police officers crack down on illegal tour operators." — Phipat Ratchakitprakarn, Tourism and Sport Minister
Tourism operators are also worried about an influx of foreign tour guides, partially the result of a labour shortage in Thailand.
Mr Phiphat insisted the number of Thai tour guides was sufficient at the moment.
The Tourism Department is working on a training programme and is extending licences for existing tour guides, he said.
Mr Phiphat said he discussed the problem of illegal tours with China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism in February to collaborate on ensuring tourist safety, quality tour services and meaningful tourist experiences.
He said the spread of new Covid-19 variants will not affect the target of 25 million visitors this year as the country is prepared in terms of vaccines and medicine for Thais and foreign tourists.
Mr Phiphat said the ministry still hopes to welcome 80 million foreign tourists to Thailand in 2027, generating 25% of GDP. He said a key selling point will be the reputation of natural attractions, such as Koh Kradan in Trang province, which was named the best beach in the world this year by the website World Beach Guide.
Four other Thai beaches were ranked among the top 100.
Mr Phiphat said those destinations must adopt capacity controls and put stringent measures on waste and water management to preserve natural resources. Koh Kradan has recorded both overnight and day-trip tourists totalling 300 per day, with 2,000 visitors per day during the recent Songkran holiday, according to authorities.