Thailand to Slap New 500 Baht Entry Arrival Tax on Tourists Effective 2014

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | October 23, 2013 12:38 PM EST

Thailand, known for its archaeological sites, sandy beaches, weekend and night markets, Buddhist temples and, of course, the traditional Thai massage, among others, wants to slap a 500-baht (AU$16.60) entry tax on tourists upon their arrival at the country. The government targets to implement the new fee effective January 2014.

The government explained the new collections fee will be used to cover the medical expenses of tourists who fell ill or got hospitalised while in the country. The government said that yearly, the cost of treating tourists at state hospitals reaches 700 million baht (AU$23 million).

"The policy is the result of foreign tourists who have accidents or fall sick in Thailand and seek treatment at our hospitals but then can't pay their bills," Charnvit Phrathep, the Health Ministry's deputy permanent secretary, was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.

"We try to send the bills on to the respective embassies but they always say they have no budgets," Mr Charnvit said.

"In the longer term it will add value to the tourism industry," he said. "We think most foreigners can afford 500 baht and if they come here and have a heart attack they will be happy to know they can get treatment at the nearest hospital with no questions asked."

The imposition of the new tax likewise targets to crack down on overstaying tourists.

"Now is the time for us to have quality tourists. It's not as if inbound tour operators won't organize tours for foreign tourists to come to the country because of the entry fees," Bangkok Post reported, quoting Public Health Minister Pradit Sintavanarong.

"The money will be used for many purposes by the tourism, health and foreign affairs ministries, and the Immigration Bureau."

According to local reports, Thailand has about 100,000 overstaying foreigners who refuse to leave the country.

Not everyone is happy with the looming new entry arrival tax.

The biggest concerns are who will collect this money and what is it going to be spent on?

"I'm sure there are better ways to collect this huge sum than taking cash from tourists arriving at the airport," Andrew Wood, national president Skal International Thailand, said.

"In the past the government bundled the passenger airport tax with airfares which made a lot of sense."

"I also worry that the fee will be open to abuse and scams," Mr Wood said

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