TRAVEL

Thailand Tourism Entry Fee Aims To Bring In 'Quality Tourists'

10/21/2013 01:10 EDT | Updated 10/21/2013 03:33 EDT
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If you're planning a trip to Thailand, sooner might be better than later if a group of politicians have their way.

Ministers inside the country's Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Ministry of Public Health and members of the Royal Thai Police announced on Sunday plans to charge tourists an entrance fee to enter the Southeast Asian country.

The proposed fee is pegged at 500 Thai Baht, roughly $16.55 per visitor staying in the country longer than three days the Daily Mail reports.

It's all part of a proposed bill which, if passed, could kick in as soon as Jan. 1, 2014.

The bill also looks to charge tourists coming in by land a 30 Thai Baht tax -- the cost of less than a cup of coffee here. The fee is a part of a proposed bill to curtail the number of foreigners in the country with expired visas.

It would also help fund the country's Immigration Bureau and ministries of tourism, health and foreign affairs, Public Health Minister Pradit Sintavanarong told the Bangkok Post. Sintavanarong added the fee wouldn't deter tour groups but rather, bring in a better class of visitors.

"Now is the time for us to have quality tourists. It's not as if inbound tour operators won't organise tours for foreign tourists to come to the country because of the entry fees," said Sintavanarong.

Other government officials say the extra cash from the fees would go back in the form of "additional care" for tourists and locals alike, according to Kajohnsak Kaewjarus, the director of Public Health in Phuket.

In September, Thailand unveiled the country's first "tourist court", specifically aimed at protecting tourists victimized during their stay abroad.

''A share of the fee could lift living standards and health care across Phuket,'' Kaewjarus told Phuket Wan Tourism News. ''It would be good for people who live on the island as well as for visitors.''

But workers in Thailand's tourism industry say the fee could do more harm than good.

"The plan will affect the tourism industry, both in the short run and the long run, because tourists will feel bad about Thailand and they may feel they are being cheated," said Sitdiwat Cheevarattanaporn, chairman of the Association of Thai Travel Agents in an interview with Phuket News.

Though the fee is set to kick in come the start of the new year, there is some good news for travellers. The government plans on withholding the fees until mid-January to avoid confusing tourists during one of Thailand's busiest travel seasons.

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