Not the right time for a travel tax


CHIANG RAI, Jan 18, 2022: 300 THB in Thailand (USD9) The travel tax, which is due to start in April, is a drop in the bucket compared to all the other entry fees imposed on intrepid travelers since Covid-19 disrupted our lives.

Considered a good cause, the government will use the tax to restore heritage tourist sites and fund the cost of accident insurance for tourists.

But the country’s tourism and hospitality industry has none of that, saying the tax is a blow to traveler confidence which is already languishing at ground zero.

On the agenda of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports for five years or more, the original proposal set the tax at THB 500, levied on tourists arriving by air, land and sea. Opposition from the travel industry has reduced it to THB 300 over time.

Back in the pre-Covid-19 days, it would have been a godsend if successfully extracted from the 40 million tourist arrivals. But for 2022, the forecast for tourist arrivals has fallen to 5 million, although optimists are pushing the forecast to 15 million, which is highly unlikely. In 2021, Thailand only welcomed 200,000 foreign visitors, and while January is anything to go by, recovery is not a start as long as the Test & Go program remains on the shelf.

But back to the tourist tax. Most travelers will cough up the THB 300 travel tax without really realizing it. It joins the airport departure tax of 700 THB as an added cost to air tickets.

Land and sea arrivals will likely be able to pay the tax through an app, or the fallback will be a queue at another border checkpoint. Over 40 countries around the world collect versions of the so-called tourist tax. Thailand is not alone but it is the first in Southeast Asia to tax international travelers upon arrival.

Voices from the travel and hospitality industry are more concerned about the message the tax is sending to international travelers who are already struggling with the high cost of traveling to Thailand in the time of Covid.

A retired tourist told me he would pay around UKP 1000 extra to enter Thailand during the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, Covid-19 entry rules require travelers to purchase an insurance policy with coverage of USD 50,000. It can cost anywhere from THB 1,000 if you are in your 40s to THB 40,000 if you are over 70.

If you are traveling to Bangkok and are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, you will be required to pay for alternative quarantine in a certified hotel for seven days. It will cost around THB 21,000 for a package including meals, two PCR tests and airport transfer. But the PCR test before boarding a plane to Thailand is another cost item at around THB 3,500. PCR tests could add THB 7,000 to 10,500 to the cost of entering Thailand.

Even if you enter on a one-year pensioner visa, you will need to buy a return ticket (around TH16,000 each way). You may not use the return area, but you must have it to show the immigration officer if they ask to see it.

Yes, the 300 THB travel tax won’t break the bank, but do your math and compare the cost of entry before Covid-19 popped its head over the parapet in January 2020 with what it is costs two years later. Travel is more expensive than ever and most of the damage is attributed to pandemic-related entry fees. Is it too much to ask the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to suspend the tourist tax until the Covid-19 is forgotten? Travelers deserve a little break from entry fees.


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