On the website of the Thai Revenue Department, a public hearing questionnaire has been launched to gather public opinion on a government departure tax of 1,000 baht.
The questionnaire says the new levy will help prevent locals from spending too much aboard. The hearing will range from May 3rd to 17th, aiming to assess a possible impact of the tax.
According to the questionnaire, Thai citizens and foreign permanent residents would be required to pay a departure tax of 1,000 baht for air travel and 500 baht for land and sea travel. This aims to generate extra revenue for the government and prevent Thai people from spending excessively overseas, according to the poll. It also aims to reduce the country’s trade deficit.
The hearing came as a surprise to many tourism operators in Thailand.
Charoen Wangananont, president of the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), said the levy collection and its principle are unrealistic and illogical because Thailand has never encountered any issues related to a trade deficit in the tourism industry, given that 70% of the total income is generated from inbound tourism, while only 30% of the expenses are related to outbound tourism.
He also said that 1,000 baht is too expensive amid current economic conditions and could have a major effect on tourism, potentially surpassing whatever revenue the government expects to generate.
“We thought this was fake news the first time we saw the poll because it is not the right time to do such a move. If the government really thinks it needs to collect a departure tax, it should have done so before the pandemic, when the tourism industry was on an upward trend. The levy rate should also be more appropriate,” Charoen said.
Chotechuang Soorangura, vice-president of TTAA, said the government should be transparent on how it will spend the revenue.
He also agreed that the levy rate is too expensive, for example, Japan also has a departure tax, but it is only ¥1,000 per person, or around 250 baht.
If the tax is ultimately implemented, Thailand’s tourism would be affected as the number of outbound tourists would contract, resulting in imbalanced flows of people and causing difficulties for airlines planning flights to Thailand.