Mass tourism to return again in 2021 with 10 million visitors targeted and full insurance cover
Tourism levy to be announced in the Royal Gazette shortly and will provide full medical coverage to all foreign tourists in Thai hospitals including Covid-19 medical coverage. Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn is predicting 10 million visitors to the kingdom in 2021.
A new ฿300 tourism levy soon to be published in Thailand’s Royal Gazette is a positive indicator that mass-market tourism is intended by the government to return to the kingdom in 2021. The measure was unveiled last week by Minister of Tourism and Sports, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.
The Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has announced that the long-awaited tourism levy is finally to get the green light in 2021.
The new tourism levy will be $10 or roughly ฿300 and full details as to its collection by state agencies will be made available when the tax is formally announced in Thailand’s Royal Gazette.
Funding for tourism development and critically, full medical coverage for visitors to the kingdom
The levy or entry tax will provide funding to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports for use in maintaining and developing Thailand’s tourism centres and key points of attraction.
Minster Phiphat explained that the levy will provide for a complete range of medical coverage for visiting foreign tourists to Thailand.
The coverage, which is a significant benefit and attraction for foreign tourists, comes at a price tag of just ฿34 or roughly 11.3% of the overall levy.
An end to tragic stories and crowdfunding appeals
The tax will help eradicate a continuous stream of negative news reports detailing tragic stories of foreigners who have been injured or hospitalized in Thailand while on holiday in the kingdom that had been a feature of the kingdom’s foreign tourism industry.
Up to the closure of Thailand to foreign tourism last year, these media stories were frequent and usually resulted in crowdfunding appeals from friends of those involved to arrange medical transport for the victims back to their home countries.
Some unfortunate foreign tourists even died alone in Thai hospitals leaving unpaid bills and families at home facing large costs to repatriate their remains as well as the tragic personal loss.
Not clear if medical evacuation costs are covered
It is not clear, however, if the medical cover provides for costly medical evacuation operations to other countries which sometimes can cost up to $100,000 or ฿3 million.
Minister Phiphat only advised that the coverage included all medical costs and care that would be required for any foreign tourist injured or who becomes sick in Thailand at local hospitals or medical facilities.
The levy also includes full protection against the Covid-19 virus which is an indication that current entry criteria in the future may be finally relaxed to allow free access to Thailand and the resumption of foreign tourism activity from the broader market which is now closed.
2021 target is 10 million visitors says Minister
The minister also revealed that his ministry is still targeting 10 million foreign tourists this year.
At the same time, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports confirmed that the final outcome for 2020 will only be 6.7 million visitors to the kingdom which is not much more than the number that had already arrived before Thailand closed its borders to foreign tourists in April last year. This was when it closed its airspace, bringing about the sudden collapse of its mammoth foreign tourism industry, one of the most significant in the world.
Trickle of tourists seen at the end of 2020
The estimated level of visitors since the kingdom partially reopened under highly restricted entry requirements from July is understood to be under 2,000 tourists per month with a disappointing response to the government’s Special Tourist Visa promotion which offered a tourist visa to foreign tourists everywhere which could be extended for up to 9 months.
The first Special Tourist Visa passengers arrived on Tuesday, October 20th last when a party of 40 flew in from Shanghai in China.
Thailand has been hit hard at the start of 2021
Thailand has been hit hard by a second wave of virus infection in January which is reported to be coming under control.
The problem is that 2021 has seen the late introduction in western countries of restrictions on entry and local lockdowns as countries experience increasingly dire second and third waves of infection.
10 million tourists target must see mass-market tourism open up again at the end of 2021
Nevertheless, the target figure of 10 million visitors for 2021 certainly indicates that the government intends to reopen mass-market foreign tourism into the kingdom and this is probably going to be in the latter part of 2021 on the basis of the kingdom’s vaccination programme running smoothly and there are no further complications of flare-ups of the Covid-19 virus.
Levy first mooted in 2013 and again in 2016
Proposals for a tourism levy in Thailand have been floated since 2013. Initiatives were advanced in both 2013 and 2016 but the imposition of the levy was avoided as it was feared it would hamper record levels of inbound foreign tourism seen then.
The genesis of this latest proposal was in 2019 when Naresuan University and the Office of the Insurance Commission were tasked by the government to come up with a viable plan.
Last year, Minister Phiphat expressed a view that the levy should be somewhere between ฿100 and ฿200 per visitor entering the kingdom.
The Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn, last year indicated he was happy with the proposal provided that the funding raised was ring-fenced for use in improving the country’s tourism infrastructure.
About the Author
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.