Thailand plans to charge foreign tourists a 300 baht ($9) fee beginning in April to help develop attractions and cover accident insurance for those who are unable to pay their own bills, according to top authorities.
Thailand, one of Asia’s most popular tourist destinations, has been severely impacted by a pandemic-related tourism downturn, with only around 200,000 visitors last year compared to roughly 40 million in 2019.
The fast global spread of the Omicron type of COVID-19 has hindered recent efforts to revitalize the industry.
“A portion of the money will be utilized to take care of tourists,” said Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of Thailand’s Tourism Authority.
“We’ve encountered times when insurance didn’t have coverage for tourists … which became our burden to take care of them,” he said, adding that funds would also be used to upgrade tourism infrastructure.
The fee adds to a list of requirements for foreign tourists seeking entry to Thailand, which include pre-payment for COVID-19 tests, hotel accommodation or quarantine, and having insurance with COVID-19 treatment coverage of at least $50,000.
Thailand waived its strict quarantine measures in November in place of a “Test & Go” scheme for vaccinated visitors, but suspended that late last month over concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant.
The new fee will be priced in with airline tickets and is part of the government’s sustainable tourism plans, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said.
Thailand expects between 5 and 15 million foreign arrivals this year, depending on policies in place in its main tourism markets, Thanakorn said.
Foreign tourists are expected to generate 800 billion Thai baht ($23.97 billion) this year, he said.
Thailand’s leading business group on Wednesday forecast foreign tourist arrivals for the year to be 5 to 6 million arrivals.