Thailand is planning to collect a 300 baht ($9) fee from foreign tourist from April to develop attractions and cover accident insurance for foreigners unable to pay costs themselves, senior officials said on Wednesday. Thailand, one of Asia’s most popular travel destinations, has been badly hit by a pandemic-induced tourism slump, with about 200,000 arrivals last year, compared to nearly 40 million in 2019.
Recent efforts to revive the sector have been complicated by the rapid global spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
“Part of the fee will be used to take care of tourists,” Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters.
“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.