If the Public Health Minister gets his way, there might soon be a kind of “tourist tax” that you will have to pay when you arrive in Thailand on your holiday. The 500 Baht “arrival tax” could probably be seen like the “departure tax” that you used to have to pay before you were allowed to leave the country. I remember making sure I had a 500 Baht note when I flew out of the airport to make sure I could pay this tax. The price of this tax actually went up to 700 Baht AFTER it was added to the cost of your ticket. So, most people didn’t know about it. I hear that they want to put it up again next year.
The article in The Nation this morning didn’t really make it clear how this “arrival tax” would work. Would they charge you at Immigration as you entered? But then, what about the people who haven’t exchanged their money to Thai Baht? Maybe they will add this to the airline ticket as well? But, what about the people who arrive by land? Another idea is that the 500 Baht would be paid at the embassies abroad when you buy a visa. But, what about the people who arrive in the country with “visa exemption”? If you start charging them, then it is hardly free any more to enter Thailand.
The article didn’t actually say what the extra 10 Billion Baht would be used for, but as it was proposed by the Health Minister, it must be about the “no insurance” problem again. A few months back, the Minister of Tourism and Sports told The Nation that unpaid hospital bills by foreign tourists with no insurance is costing the country over 200 Million Baht annually. As a consequence, they have started to discuss the possibility of making it compulsory for all foreign tourists to have insurance before they are allowed to enter Thailand. A figure of 500 Baht was mentioned. As the Health Minister is now talking about this fee, it can be presumed that they are moving ahead with this idea.
The final say will come from the cabinet. What do you think? Fair enough? Or should they use some of the billions that they are already making from the tourism business to solve this problem?