Thailand sets minimum fees for group tours

Thailand has taken the first steps to eradicate notorious ‘zero dollar’ package tours by levying a minimum per person overhead charge of THB1,000 per day for Chinese tour groups.

Deputy Prime Minister Thanasak Patimaprakorn announced the levy as part of the Tourism Business and Tour Guide Act effectively making it illegal for package tour operators to market tours below cost price.

It is intended to stop cheap tours where unwitting tourists are forced to spend heavily in designated shops, which have often led to verbal and physical threats by tour guides to buy goods at inflated prices.

The tour companies then received big commissions from the stores to recoup their costs.

The new rule will also be presented to outbound Chinese tour operators next month in Shanghai.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) expects about 220,000 Chinese tourists during the Octover1-9 ‘Golden Week’ holiday period, which would represent a 30% increase on last year.

The crackdown on cheap, low quality tours has had some affect on tourism arrivals from China.

“If we did nothing, the number of Chinese tourists this year would have easily gone up to 10 million but you have to understand that with these zero dollar tours some payments are made under the table and we cannot collect taxes,” Pongpanu Svetarundra, permanent secretary of the ministry of tourism and sports, told the Nikkei Asian Review.