Thailand wants to pay travelers going off the beaten path

Update: Don’t plan that holiday in Lopburi just yet, the powers that be have killed the proposed subsidy after it was slammed as  yet-another-wasteful-populist joke.

Thailand’s government bean counters have a novel idea for boosting tourism to the kingdom’s less-visited locales: Give people money.

A campaign that would gift eligible citizens with THB1,500 (about US$47) to visit any of 55 less-frequented cities was proposed yesterday by the Finance Ministry to stimulate the economy and promote the use of electronic payments.

Only Thai nationals over 18 would be eligible. Under the proposal sent to the interim cabinet, the ministry would use the nascent national e-payment system to deposit funds directly into recipients’ bank accounts, which could be used at participating stores during their travels in the designated cities.

As anyone with a tax return has learned, that probably means PromptPay or Krung Thai Bank, the latter of which is a partner in the proposed campaign.

The ministry has proposed a budget of THB15 billion (about US$500 million) for the campaign, which would mean 10 million Thais could potentially get a government travel sugar daddy. Tourism authority Gov. Yuthasak Supasorn estimated the campaign could stimulate GDP growth of 0.3 percent to 0.5 percent.

Further details about how to register or when it would happen were either not yet worked out or disclosed, but the ministry would like to see it start as early as next month.

The proposed cities are dispersed throughout the country and range from cities on the radar to those usually unmentioned by any travel agency, such as Chiang Rai, Phitsanulok, Udon Thani, Nong Khai, Lopburi, Trat and Ranong.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the total proposed allocation as THB15 million. It is in fact THB15 billion.

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