Call to renew levy on tourists
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Call to renew levy on tourists

Arriving passengers wait in line for an immigration check at Suvarnabhumi airport.
Arriving passengers wait in line for an immigration check at Suvarnabhumi airport.

Tourism operators are urging the new tourism minister to resume the plan to collect a 300-baht fee from tourists because it is not considered an obstacle to arrivals.

The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) said it plans to discuss the necessity of this project with Sermsak Pongpanich, the new tourism minister, as soon as he takes office.

Surawat Akaraworamat, vice-president of the TCT, said most stakeholders in the industry as well as the Thai Chamber of Commerce agree that initiating this fee collection is important because the tourism development priorities do not have other mechanisms to raise funds.

For instance, he said the Tourism Department has 56 tourism-related standards that operators nationwide should apply to ensure quality of services, but the budget for regulating tourism standards is only 10 million baht per year.

"We have serious problems with safety standards," said Mr Surawat.

"The Tourism Department can set guidelines for each type of tourism service, such as tour buses, restaurants and adventure activities, but it lacks sufficient budget to regulate and audit all operators."

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin recommended freezing the fee collection to pump up the number of tourists, but the TCT believes implementing the levy would not impact the flow of tourists, said Mr Surawat.

Wuthichai Luangamornlert, chief executive of Siam Park City Group, the operator of Siam Amazing Park, said he agrees with collecting the fee.

"The 300-baht fee, which is only US$9-10 for tourists, would definitely not impact the market," said Mr Wuthichai.

"The budget for tourism development is reduced every year, and this should be viewed as a serious problem for our industry."

Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said the government should have fee collection methods that do not affect other types of arrivals, as it is not only foreign tourists who enter Thailand.

"In addition to tourists, we also have business travellers required to visit Thailand several times per year," said Mr Sisdivachr.

"The fee collection might be redundant for them."

He said the tourism fund should have clear guidelines for usage, differentiated from other fees that have been implemented, as tourists still have not seen development or improvement of tourism sites for years, such as entry fees for national parks.

Tassapon Bijleveld, executive chairman of Asia Aviation Plc, the majority shareholder of Thai AirAsia, said the Airlines Association of Thailand might pursue setting up a meeting with new finance minister Pichai Chunhavajira to resubmit a proposal asking for a reduction in the fuel excise tax, after a previous attempt failed to obtain a positive response.

He said costs for airlines have risen by 20%, attributed to rising maintenance prices, as there are limited suppliers.

The price of jet fuel, hovering around US$100 per barrel, is regarded as high for airline operations, said Mr Tassapon.

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