New tourism tax put on hold numerous times

Collection issues still delay the imposition of Thailand’s tourist tax on most foreigners.

Thailand’s much-anticipated 300 baht tourist tax by air (150 baht by land or sea) will not be implemented in September after all. Yuthasak Supasorn, head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the matter needs to be resolved by the incoming government, which is unlikely to take office before mid-August.

The proposed tax revenue is plagued by collection issues because it does not apply to Thais or foreign permanent residents (those who are determined to remain in Thailand indefinitely without a passport expiry date) and Thai work permit holders. Airlines have complained that unless the fee applies to all passengers, it is impossible for them to include the fee in international tickets. The suggestion that exempt groups could recover the 300 baht at a later stage was considered tedious and exhaustive.

Another idea is that kiosks should be opened at airports and border posts, where queues can form as weary travelers try to use electronic methods or provide cash in multiple currencies that require change. Land entry poses further difficulties, as Cambodian, Malaysian or Myanmar businessmen who transit into Thailand on a daily basis will be another exempt category, along with tourists who stay no longer than 24 hours.

Last month, government ministers suggested handing over the entire strategy and cash collection to a private organisation. However, no new ideas were offered other than to advise affected entrants to pay in advance before visiting specialist government websites. Critics say the clumsy, extra bureaucracy is a poor marketing strategy for an economy as dependent on tourism as Thailand.

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said it would be better to delay the plan until Thailand returns to normal next year. A spokesperson for Your Asian Dreams said it was unclear how the proceeds would be used. “But this appears to be a government slush fund to improve tourist attractions such as temples and to provide compensation for major incidents such as minibus accidents or shipwrecks.” It is worth noting that the plan has not yet been published in the Royal Gazette, which means No start date has been approved.

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