Amidst a recovery in tourism prospects, plans for a tourist levy next year which may have covered expenditure on amenities and automatic insurance for visitors have been shelved for now. This is the second time such a measure has been put on ice, the last time being in 2006. This may be short-sighted as the proposal to provide automatic insurance for tourists would have helped prevent further damaging negative PR for the kingdom and Thailand as a tourist destination every time a tourist is left stranded with unpaid hospital medical bills. 

The uplifting news report comes with uplifting numbers for Thailand’s government and tourist chiefs which show real gains in numbers and money spent from visitors in July and August. Thailand, barring unforeseen circumstances, is heading for a record-breaking year.

A western tourist couple led the effort to help a Thai soldier involved in a motorbike accident in Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai is an uplifting story just like numbers for tourists in August which showed a 5.6% rise in numbers and over 7% more money spent than last year. Thailand is on target for another record-breaking year.

An incident on Tuesday last week on September 3rd is now being reported from the Chiang Dao district of Chuang Mai. It has caused many Thai people to praise two western tourists, apparently a couple, who came to the assistance of a fallen Thai army soldier when he was involved in an accident while riding his motorbike on a street in a beautiful part of Chian Mai nicknamed ‘little Tuscany’ for its charming atmosphere and wines.

Incident happened in the sunshine on an afternoon in northern Thailand on a narrow thoroughfare

The incident is reported to have taken place at just before 10 minutes past 1 in the afternoon when the alert went out to police and rescue services. The soldier was riding his motorbike when a silver-coloured Isuzu pickup truck driver opened the door of his vehicle which acted as boom catapulting the soldier on to the middle to the road. He never saw it coming. The road is known among local residents as being narrow and one to be extra cautious about.

Western couple were young adults

The western couple were not identified but they appeared to be young adults. The pair did not hesitate as they immediately hurried across the road to tend the injured man as he lay motionless on the ground with one leg crossed over the other.

The western woman took charge and crouched over the soldier as her partner and passersby including some dogs stood attentively waiting for the emergency service to respond to the incident.

Placed covering over the man’s face to shield him from the afternoon sun awaiting rescue services

Before that, the woman’s partner together with some Thai people had placed some coverings over the young soldier’s face to shield from the sun. The man appeared to be bleeding.

Meanwhile, the driver of the Isuzu truck waited in his truck to report to police on the matter. While the internet and social networks were full of praise for the western tourist couple, another debate waged among Chiang Mai residents on who was at fault in the accident.

Some even felt that was inappropriate for a Thai soldier to seen in such a predicament.

Cabinet meeting on Tuesday heard good news on Thailand’s tourist numbers and spend

This Tuesday, the Thai cabinet heard the much needed good news on the economic front detailing the encouraging tourist numbers. The country reported the second month in a row of increased visitor numbers when compared to figures for last year.

An official bulletin on the figures came after the Thai cabinet meeting which approved new incentives making it easier for foreigners to establish businesses in Thailand including moves to make visa and work permit regulations more practical and easier to follow.

Figures for August up 5.6%, spend up by 7.12%

The tourist numbers showed numbers up by nearly 5.6% on last year. 3.41 million people entered Thailand during August as tourists many of them Chinese visitors who appear to be starting to come back to the kingdom. The even better news was that the tourists spent ฿170 billion or $5.55 billion a generous increase of 7.12% on last year’s figure.

Chinese visitor numbers spiked by 15.6% on last year

The uptick in Chinese tourist numbers means that in August, numbers from China were up by 15.6% following an increase of nearly 6% in July. The marked recovery in tourist numbers means that in the eight months so far in 2019, overall tourists numbers have inched ahead by 2.6% bringing the figure for arrivals to the 31st of August to 26.5 million.

Thailand should break the 40 million barrier this year

It suggests that Thailand is on target to achieve its second record tourism year in a row and smash the 40 million visitors barrier by the end of the year.

Prime Minister struck a cautious tone and warned about the care of tourists and the environment

Responding to the figures, the prime minister struck a cautious tone however and asked officials at all government departments and agencies throughout Thailand to look to the safety of tourists and efforts being made to conserve Thailand’s environment which may be threatened by consistently high numbers. 

The government has put plans in place to combat this danger which means bolstering tourist infrastructure and preserving natural amenities. This is a policy recommended to the government in recent years by the World Bank and is seen as necessary to underpin the prospects for further growth.

Tourism is Thailand’s secret economic weapon

The Thai tourism industry contributes 12% of Thailand’s GDP and some observers suggest it could be more due to indirect benefits or factors. It is rightfully considered the gem in Thailand’s economic crown and is perhaps unique in the world.

Last week, Bangkok was voted again for the fourth year in a row by Mastercard users as the world’s most visited city ahead of London, New York or Paris.

Postponement of a tourist tax or levy

This week also, Thailand’s tourist bosses have announced the postponement of a proposed tourist levy or tax which had been planned for next year. The reason given is that the imposition of the new charge may hinder the tourist numbers in a competitive market just as they are recovering from what appeared earlier in the year to be a slump.

Negative PR caused by tourist accidents

However, one of the key concerns for the tourism industry in recent years, particularly regarding western countries, has been combating negative PR caused by accidents involving foreign visitors in Thailand. This usually involves stories of tourists stranded without the means to pay for hospital bills or medical costs.

Tourist levy mooted at ฿200 to ฿450

The proposed tourist levy under consideration was suggested to be priced in a range from ฿200 to ฿450 and would have been used for the preservation of natural amenities and upgrading facilities for tourists. One part of the proposal was the introduction of automatic insurance cover for tourists visiting Thailand so that they would be fully covered for medical expenses and evacuation in the event of an accident while in Thailand.

Key Thai university and insurance body worked on tourist tax plans for the government

Naresuan University and the Office of the Insurance Commission were reported as researching and drawing up plans for the tourist tax or levy involving the amount to be levied, how the tax would be charged and at what stage such as whether it should be paid while entering the county or leaving the country.

Further reading:

Tourism minister predicts a record year but says he wants western visitors back in Thailand

Thailand could introduce tourist tax or levy next year as expert group begins to examine plans

Thailand is feeling the heat from its hot tourism industry