The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many popular tourism destinations, especially those suffering the effects of overtourism, to reassess the way the sector is allowed to function. It seems that Thailand, which has remained mostly closed to foreign visitors since March 2020 is among them, and is looking to focus on the “quality market” from here on out.
Thailand’s Centre for Economic Situation Administration has therefore approved a plan to implement a 500-baht (less than US$15) tourist tax for a “tourism transformation fund”. According to the Bangkok Post, the nation’s Tourism and Sports Ministry would begin collecting the new visitor fee next year and its budget
The National Tourism Policy Committee had already sanctioned the creation of this fund earlier in the year, at that time proposing a 300-baht fee per person (afterward raised to 500 baht), the proceeds of which would subsidize projects aimed at transforming the tourism industry.
Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said that the additional 200 baht would be channeled into projects initiated by the private sector or community, to transform their operations to align with the fund’s strategic focus on high-value and sustainable tourism. The government predicts the fund could generate 5 billion baht during 2022, assuming that the nation sees around 10 million foreign arrivals.
The extra capital is also intended to help the country restructure its industry from mass tourism to a high-value economic model and environmentally concerned type of tourism. It’s also meant to help bankroll budget insurance offerings for foreign visitors and other development initiatives run by the government, rather than the private sector.
“The projects should be co-creations and the government should use the fund to support projects that can create an economic impact. The proportion of public-private financial support could be 50:50, 60:40 or 70:30, depending on how much we want to make those projects happen,” said Supasorn.
He said the fund isn’t intended to remediate financial losses suffered due to the pandemic, but rather to support long-term, local economic growth.
“The additional cost won’t have an impact on tourists, as we want to focus on the quality market,” said Mr. Yuthasak. “We hope this fund will support a national tourism makeover creating more safe and clean places.”
Following approval of the scheme, TAT, along with the Tourism and Sports Ministry, must with other sector authorities to determine how the fund will be set up and exactly how it will operate. The same committee will also need to set criteria as to which projects will be eligible for funding.