Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, expects the 300-baht tourism fee collected from foreign visitors this year to establish a tourism fund to assist the battered industry.
He said that the fund is vital for Thai tourism, allowing operators to access financial support from this budget immediately in the face of the unprecedented crisis.
After the National Tourism Policy Committee approves the guidelines for collecting the tourism fee, the ministry has to work with the Finance Ministry before proposing the elaborate plan to the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) by February for approval.
The rough details of the plan include 34 baht from the fee used to provide insurance benefits to international tourists visiting the country, with the rest deposited in the tourism fund, which will go towards developing and maintaining supply chains.
For example, the funds could be used to build proper restrooms or wheelchair ramps at destinations such as national parks or archaeological sites, said Mr Ratchakitprakarn.
The development of tourism infrastructure is in line with the government’s five-year strategic plan to promote the bio, circular and green (BCG) economy, which includes tourism and the creative economy, he said.
Mr Ratchakitprakarn said he plans to follow up on the initiative to collect the same fee from expatriates as locals at tourism attractions, especially at national parks.
The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry acknowledged this concern last year, but there has been no further development.
He said although the pandemic resurgence halted all tourism activities in the first two months of the year, the goal of 100-150 million domestic trips and 5-10 million foreign arrivals remained reachable.
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The distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine will create greater opportunities to bring back international travellers who have been inoculated and can therefore be exempted from quarantine.
Mr Ratchakitprakarn said the country should also be aware the vaccine cannot be 100% effective and is not without side effects. The elderly and people with certain health conditions who get vaccinated may experience severe allergic reactions.
As vaccine distribution in Thailand will begin in February, the Sports Authority of Thailand aims to allow Thai athletes and its staff be the second group to be vaccinated, following at-risk groups.
Mr Ratchakitprakarn said the vaccine is important to prepare for upcoming international sports events like the Olympic Games in Tokyo between 23rd July – 8th August, assuming the schedule could be maintained.