Tourists should have insurance, forum told
Compensation fund at risk of going broke
Travel insurance should be mandatory for visitors to Thailand to ease the burden on the tourist compensation fund, a seminar was told Wednesday.
The proposal was among various suggestions raised at the seminar organised by a National Legislative Assembly committee on religion, culture and tourism in a bid to attract Chinese tourists back to the country.
Chinese tourist arrivals dwindled sharply after the ill-fated Phoenix tourist boat sank off Phuket on July 5, killing 47 Chinese passengers.
An 11-day search ended on July 15 after the final body, pinned underneath the ill-fated Phoenix, was recovered from the sea bed.
Another boat called the Serenita also sank in the same area of the storm-tossed sea but no casualties were reported.
The Association of Thai Travel Agents previously reported that many Chinese tourists cancelled their plans to visit Phuket and other resort destinations such as Krabi, Phangnga and Koh Samui after the Phoenix boat accident that claimed so many lives.
"Chinese tourists have cancelled bookings made for July, August and September," Vichit Prakobkosol, president of the association, said. "The cancellations have damaged the tourism business on the Andaman coast."
Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat told the seminar that travel insurance is necessary for tourists and travel insurance policies should provide a wide range of coverage for common hazars as well as types of travel and sports with an element of risk such as mountain climbing and scuba diving.
"Safety cannot be comprised," the minister said, adding any tour company who fails to comply with safety rules would face the consequences.
Pongpanu Svetarundra, permanent secretary of tourism and sports, said the boat accident in Phuket was a tragedy.
The government's tourist compensation fund has been heavily depleted as it has already paid out about 60 million baht in total to the Phoenix boat victims and the families of the deceased, on top of insurance firm claims.
Mr Pongpanu said he agreed travel insurance is necessary to cover risks because the tourist fund has to shoulder the burden of looking after all tourists visiting the country.
The fund is in danger of collapsing if similar major accidents occur with many people killed and injured, he said.
Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yutthasak Suphason echoed his view, saying travel insurance would help ease concerns about compensation payment burdens.
Chanapan Kaewklachaiyawuth, vice-president of the Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance Association (TCTA), said the association will make tracking GPS bracelets for distribution to Chinese tourists in case they get lost or have an accident.
Tourists can register their travel document information with tour companies and get the GPS trackers, he said.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry reported that more than 35 million foreign tourists visited Thailand last year spending more than 1.8 trillion baht.
Of them, almost 10 million were Chinese tourists who spent over 500 billion baht. Three million Chinese visited Phuket, spending about 150 billion baht.