Thailand's Ministry Of Silly Works
Bangkok is up to it's old antics again with news that the Ministry of Public Health is considering a THB500 entrance fee for foreign visitors coming to the Kingdom.
Just the other day I was sitting with a group of Phuket hoteliers who were waxing poetically about the strong demand for the coming high season.
Enter the Public Health Minister Pradit Sintavanarong who says he has gathered support from the Ministry of Tourism and the Royal Thai Police who all share his apparent glee over the initiative that could start as early as January.
According to Khun Pradit the country currently has to pick up THB200-300 million a year for accidents by uninsured foreigners. Viewing the number, this would seem to the naked eye to be inconsequential in a country where tourism contributes between 6-7% of GPD and a double-digit number when you look at the expanded service economy.
What's obvious is the country wants the tourism income but at no cost which seems a bit lightheaded. As to the proposed mechanism the money would be collected and then redistributed by the central government, which could see an endless line of armored cars driving back to Phuket with empty loads.
We've seen the issues over the local hotel tax, which remains controversial to this day, though a portion of that has gone back to build the giant white elephant called the Phuket Gateway up near the Sarasin Bridge. Have you been there? Even the sea turtles don't bother.
As for the premise that Thailand now suddenly only wants upscale visitors, the painful process of asking business types or those here for a luxury holiday hopping in a line to pay as they enter would seem to derail the entire proposition. More airport delays cannot be a good thing for anyone.
Is there no other way to cover the few hundred million baht in question? Lax tax collection be it on income, or land and property remains the bane of a system, which cannot fuel its own growth. Though putting a big bouncer at the door of the nightclub known as Thailand will no doubt make collecting the THB500 possible.
I'm at a loss who the Public Health Ministry can impose their lopsided will on the face the country which is tourism and how the current administration can stand still and let the forces that be run seemingly amok.
As we all know an any business market sentiment is a major driving force for business and creating another silly global headline is doing far more damage then good for the industry.
Bangkok, you are you listening? Sorry I was directed to voice messaging and asked to call back later.