The 500 baht question: Should entering Thailand remain free?

Plans to introduce a tourist health fee move forward as officials disagree about its impact.

On one side are those in government who believe collecting THB500 from all visitors will offset the costs of providing health care and attract “good tourists” instead of undesirables. However those who oversee tourism in the kingdom see it as a deterrant that will inevitably encourage travelers to choose another destination.

These objections have been raised by Thailand’s tourism council after the health ministry proposed the fee last month as a means to recover the THB200 million to THB300 million it says is spent providing emergency health care for the approximately 23 million guests who arrive each year. By paying the fee, each guest would be covered by up to THB200,000 to THB300,000 in emergency care.

Tourists must pay the fee “because they have to use our medical resources,” said Pradit Sintavanarong of the health ministry, adding that Thailand should not want those unwilling to pay a THB500 entrance fee.

The concern, raised by the Tourism Council of Thailand, comes after the Public Health Ministry proposed a plan to collect Bt500 as a fee for entering the country from foreign tourists staying in Thailand from three to 30 days; and Bt30 for less than three days. The fee would be used to support a ministry programme providing emergency medical services for foreign tourists.

According to Public Health Minister Pradit Sintavanarong, currently the ministry has to shoulder about Bt200 million to Bt300 million as the financial burden for providing emergency medical services for foreign tourists. 

Each year, the ministry estimates that about 23 million foreign tourists from around the world visit Thailand. It expected that if the plan to collect a fee for entering the country were approved by the Cabinet, the ministry would be able to collect about Bt10 billion. 

This money would be used to support the ministry’s budget to provide emergency medical services for foreign tourists suffering serious illness or injury. Under this plan, each foreign patient would be covered by Bt200,000 to Bt300,000 in emergency care. This budget would also be used to develop healthcare units and procure medical devices.

The proposed fee would generate upward of THB10 billion in revenue, which would go to the Finance Ministry, some of which would return to the health ministry.

Tourism Council of Thailand President Piyaman Tejapaibul disagrees with the proposal, saying that it will cause arrivals to fall, which will have a greater economic impact.

“Each year Thailand gets a lot of revenue from the tourism industry, but the government has never used money from this industry to develop and support tourism,” she said.

The proposed fee is still being discussed before being sent to the cabinet for consideration by the prime minister, The Nation reported.

 

Do you think a THB500 tourist fee would help or hinder Thailand? Weigh in by commenting below, creating your own Community post, commenting on our Facebook page or talking to us on Twitter.

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