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Operators see potential in tourism levy

Vichit: Considering tour tax details

Tourism operators have embraced the imminent tourism tax but vow to monitor the issue closely to ensure that levy collection will not have a negative impact on tourism.

Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said that while the levy has promise, details such as how to charge visitors and at what amount are concerns for operators.

"The most important factor for this levy is it should not affect the tourism industry," he said.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry floated the idea of charging a tax on tourists who visit Thailand. The money will be used to finance rehabilitation of local tourism destinations and pay for insurance for tourists who fall sick or are injured here.

Atta members that manage package tours could see a reduction in expense because the insurance will be covered by the state.

At present, tour operators shoulder insurance expenses for tourists. Insurance coverage of tour packages for some countries can be as high as 1 million baht per person.

The ministry came up with the idea to impose a tourist levy after the revised National Tourism Policy Act was enacted and published in the Royal Gazette on Wednesday. The legislation enables the ministry to impose a tourism fee for use in developing local destinations and providing insurance coverage for foreign tourists.

Tourism permanent secretary Chote Trachu said the levy will be low, probably 100 baht or US$3, which should not affect travellers.

"Considering the number of international arrivals, some 38 million last year, the size of the fund could be as huge as 3.8 billion baht, more than sufficient for absorbing insurance plans and spending for destination improvement," Mr Chote said.

The ministry hired Naresuan University to conduct a study over six months to determine the rate and the collection process.

According to the ministry, Thailand expects to receive some 41 million foreign tourists this year.

Despite the positive situation for the overall industry, Mr Vichit expressed concern over the declining tourist market, especially visitors travelling with group tours.

The number of tourists that used Atta members' services from January to May 20 this year fell to 2.2 million, an 11.2% year-on-year decline. The China market dipped to 1.5 million, down 14.7% year-on-year.

As tourists shift to travelling on their own, operators must design packages to suit this type of traveller, Mr Vichit said.

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