Even Before Borders Reopen Thailand (Once Again) Considers THB 300 Tourist Levy For “Pandemic Insurance”

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An ever re-occurring topic is once again on the table of the Thai government: Charging Tourists an entry levy of several hundred Thai Baht, this time under the disguise of fighting Coronavirus.

Thsi time the discussion is about a mandatory THB 300 fee charged to every tourist in order to cover pandemic related expenses including an insurance coverage.

It really gets old to follow the ever repeating measures some people in the Thai government come up with as proposals and usually they get shot down in the end on the advise of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) because they would have an adverse effect.

Can anyone remember the exact same topic of a mandatory health insurance with 100 THB fee per tourist which came up in May of 2019?

Approved by the Cabinet last month, the new regulation will require expats on the long-stay non-immigrant O-A visa (Note: Retirement Visa) to have health insurance that offers Bt40,000 coverage for outpatient treatment and Bt400,000 for inpatient.

The requirement was introduced because foreign expats have piled up unpaid medical bills of more than Bt300 million since 2016. …

Foreign tourists visiting Thailand will soon have to pay 100 baht on arrival on top of any visa fees for their mandatory health insurance, a tourism official said Thursday.

The fee of 100 baht levied from each traveler will be used to buy insurance to cover his or her stay in Thailand, tourism ministry secretary Chote Trachu said. He expects the measure to roll out “six months from now.”

Needless to say nothing ever rolled out and the proposal was trashed as it was also completely unpractical considering the logistics involved of collecting money at the airport from every single traveler.

Now exactly one year later the Bangkok Post is reporting that this idea is back, however now Thailand wants to collect up to THB 300 for pandemic cover and associated expenses.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry is considering a tax of 300 baht or less per person for foreign arrivals that could cover pandemic insurance, once inbound flights and tourism activities resume in the country.

Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said the tax would be collected once foreigners arrive by air, land or sea transport.

The scheme is part of the 20-year national strategic plan that requires government agencies to have recurring income to sustain and stabilise the national economy.

The levy will be added to the tourism fund managed by the ministry that aims to rebuild and develop tourism supply chains here, as well as offer safety and security protection for tourists.

He said this idea was initiated last year but was delayed because of the pandemic. Now is the right time to initiate collection, said Mr Phiphat. …

The goal is to have tourists entering via air travel charged as a part of their air tickets, but the government has not finalised how collection for land and sea transport would work.

“The pandemic has had a severe impact on tourism confidence, and the tourism fund should set aside a budget for state agencies to carry on when looking after tourists affected by the pandemic,” he said.

A nice little round of jokers aren’t they?

First of all COVID-19 had absolutely nothing to do with the proposal from 2019 being shelved. It wasn’t delayed – it was canned because this was simply another one of the Thai Governments brain farts. COVID-19 became relevant for Thailand in February/March of 2020 so again, it had absolutely zero impact on the original abandoned idea.

A tourism entry levy to “sustain and stabilize the national economy”? Maybe working on the GDP and taxation system and the currency itself would be a better way to achieve these goals.

Those funds (even if collected) wouldn’t go anywhere near of “looking after tourists” considering the ever repeating gaffes by the government which in most recent times was most prominent for the racist remarks of the Thai Health Minister who we featured a few times in the last few months.

In other words: Tourists have always been more tolerated than welcomed in Thailand and this COVID-19 situation showed perfectly that as soon as there are problems, foreign visitors are quickly changing their status from cash cow to unwelcome figures in the Kingdom who can be blamed for pretty much everything that goes wrong (not that this is a sentiment that’s exclusive to Thailand but anyway).

Paying 100, 200, 300 THB upon arrival sounds easy but it will actually prove to be a logistical nightmare to which everyone who knows Bangkok Airport can attest. Nobody will have Thai Baht in cash upon arrival, there aren’t even ATM’s – only cash exchange counters – and they can’t just tag it onto the ticket as that would impact all travelers, even transits with departures on a separate ticket and most importantly Thai citizens. Collecting cash and verifying existing insurance will take forever. There are barely enough resources and spaces to process regular arrivals by simply stamping their passports.

The quality of insurance provided will likely be a complete joke and not cover anything worthwhile, especially not at a hospital where anyone with common sense would like to be treated, such as at Bangkok Hospital or BNH. It will most likely be for Thai Clinics and Government Hospitals. Obviously, what can you expect for a $3 premium?

It’s simply a cash grab! Last year a sum of 3.8 Billion Baht was expected to be taken in annually with the 100 THB levy. Now since we’re talking about 200-300 THB you can double or triple that estimate.

Conclusion

Thailand has tried many times to get this on the way as the number of tourists who don’t pay their medical bills (~20%) do in fact present a problem. That being said there are plenty of foreigners who pay dearly (get ripped off by hospitals) for their treatments and one can argue the hospitals have already priced that in. Most tourists do already have a proper travel insurance for medical costs so this whole theory of a pandemic coverage is nothing but a charade.

Whenever there is a shortage of money governments come up with a new tax and, as reasonable it is to eliminate medical debt of foreigners, an attempt such as the last proposal to grab a 13 fold amount to make up for unpaid medical debt is simply without merit.

For now this is a dead fish in the water that will end just like the previous plan: In the bin. But regardless, get yourself a proper travel insurance people! You don’t want to be in Thailand or anywhere for that matter with no medical coverage and it doesn’t need to be COVID-19 to land you in a hospital.

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