A trip to Thailand is about to get a little more expensive. Starting June 1, the country will impose a tourism tax on international visitors, the government approved Tuesday.
Those who arrive by air will be taxed roughly $9, which will be added into airfare Those who arrive by air will be taxed 300 baht (roughly $9, which will be added into airfare) and those by land or water transportation will be charged 150 baht ($4). The year-round tax will only apply to those staying overnight in the country, children under 2 or those traveling on diplomatic passports or work permits.
The tax, which was proposed by the National Tourism Policy Committee and has been under consideration since before the pandemic, has been criticized by the local tourism industry, the Bangkok Post reported.
Government officials say it will help offset medical costs tourists accrue at public hospitals, which totaled between $8 million and $11 million from 2017 and 2019, the tourism and sports minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn told reporters on Tuesday. It will also support domestic tourism development. This year alone, the tax could generate more than $115 million.
Beyond the upcoming tourism tax, there are no restrictions for US leisure travelers to enter Thailand, other than having a passport with at least six months of validity from your arrival. Americans don't need a visa for stays fewer than 30 days, but Thai immigration officials or airline staff may require proof of an onward or return ticket. All coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.
Tourism in Thailand is seeing a major rebound, which is resulting in the country increasing the number of immigration counters and taxis at Bangkok's airport to keep up with the recent surge. Thailand's tourism authorities expect to welcome 25 million visitors in 2023.
Since Thailand reopened for tourism, Angela Hughes, owner of Trips & Ships Luxury Travel, has had significant interest from clients to visit. But as tourism numbers climb, she's concerned for the return of overtourism to country's most popular travel destinations, namely its beaches.
Overtourism has been an ongoing issue for Thailand. The country had to close destinations such as Koh Tachai and Maya Bay (made famous by the 2000 movie "The Beach") to rehabilitate them from tourism damage.
Hughes recalls scenes of Ko Phi Phi Don island choked with thousands of tourists before the pandemic and is now encouraging clients to explore beyond the beach. "I'm shifting people north to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai," Hughes says.
Jason Martin, US branch director for InsideAsia Tours, says his company is also sending travelers north and avoiding places like Pattaya, the beach city on Thailand's eastern gulf coast known for its nightlife, which he says has been destroyed by overtourism. But clients are showing interest outside of Thailand's "beaches and beer" culture on their own, too, requesting vacations that dive deeper into the country.
Thailand will join other popular travel destinations implementing visitor entrance fees. Europe is planning to launch its European Travel Information and Authorisation System (or ETIAS) in November, which will require a 7 euro fee for visitors 18 to 70 years old. Venice has postponed a new tourist entry fee but it's expected to launch this year. Bhutan reopened last year and now requires a $200 daily visa fee.