A trip to Thailand is about to become more expensive for travelers, 300 baht (NZ$13) more expensive to be exact.
The tourist tax will be levied from April this year and aims to help move the nation towards a more environmentally responsible, high-quality tourism model.
Speaking to Bangkok Post, the governor of Thailand’s Tourism Authority, Yuthasak Supasor said the money will be spent on local projects that support this goal.
“We hope this fund supports a national tourism transformation that creates safer and cleaner places,” he said.
Tourism taxes worldwide
When it comes to tourist taxes, Thailand is late in the game. Other equally popular destinations around the world have long charged travelers extra for the pleasure of visiting.
Countries like Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, as well as the United States, Scotland, Mexico, and dozens of Caribbean countries levy tourist taxes.
If you don’t remember pulling out your wallet to pay a tourist tax, it’s probably because most countries simply tack it onto the cost of an airline ticket or hotel bill.
In New Zealand, travelers and work holidaymakers, as well as certain students and employees, are required to pay an International Conservation and Tourism Tax of USD 35.
However, the cost is small compared to the $295 – 370 fees Bhutan charges per day.
The fee covers accommodation, meals, entrance fees, a guide, and transportation within the country, but also ensures that the country is never overrun by the typical budget-conscious traveler looking to spend as little as possible and see as much as possible.
This, combined with Bhutan’s notorious tourist cap, means those who visit are treated to a destination relatively free from traces of over-tourism.
The reasons for a tourist tax
Tourist taxes are often discussed as a way for popular tourist destinations to fund the protection and regeneration of their natural and social environments, but this is not the only motive.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) chief executive Chris Roberts said taxes are also used to regulate tourist behaviour/crowds, fund Covid-19 relief packages, regional marketing or research, or simply generate additional revenue.
“A well-designed tourism tax can be a practical and useful tool for the sustainable management of a tourist destination,” writes Roberts, pointing out that New Zealand’s International Visitor Levy is a good example.
Are tourist taxes elitist?
After the Mayor of Venice introduced a €10 entrance fee in 2018, a local told CNN: “Venice is being inundated with tourists and we need to reduce the number of day-trippers in favor of more qualified ones – let’s call it ‘luxury’ tourism.”
Back in Thailand, Yuthasak said similarly bluntly that the additional tax would not be a problem for the “quality market” her new tourism industry hoped to attract.
Last March, New Zealand’s tourism minister, Stuart Nash, told RNZ that visitors spending just $10 a day “are not really the kind of tourists we want”. Instead, Nash said they were interested in “high quality” tourists.
Nash carefully clarified that a high ranking visitor did not necessarily mean a high net worth or wealthy visitor.
His distinction is justified — people who aren’t typically wealthy often save and spend heavily on vacation. However, it seems likely that those who spend heavily are, for the most part, people who can usually afford it.
The issue of tourism taxes often leads to accusations of elitism, as these costs can further discourage people from affording travel.
However, by levying or restricting tourists, it is merely recognizing that the burden of tourism should not be borne by the people or the environment of the destination, but by the visitors themselves.
Despite cheap flights and an accessible world, our right to travel should never outweigh the right for the local people or natural environment to thrive.
Which countries charge tourists?
Austria — Hotel bills often include an accommodation tax of 3.02 percent extra per person.
Belgium — tourist tax is charged on overnight stays; While the rules vary from city to city, they will be around €7.50.
Bhutan – The minimum fee per day in Bhutan is US$250 during high season and includes accommodation, transport, guide, meals and entrance fees.
Bulgaria — tourists pay for accommodation. This varies depending on the region and hotel class, but is around €1.50.
Caribbean Islands – On most islands, taxes are added to your hotel bill or as a departure fee, ranging from €45 in Barbuda and Antigua to €13 in the Bahamas.
Croatia – The tax was increased to €1.33 per person per night in 2019 and only applies in summer.
Czech Republic – You only pay one fee if you are visiting the capital city of Prague and are over 18 years old. The fee is less than €1 per person per night.
France – The “taxe de séjour” is added to the hotel bill and ranges from €0.20 ($0.3) to around €4 ($6.7) depending on where you are.
Germany – Always the high flyer, Germany levies two taxes, a “culture tax” and a “bed tax” in some cities, often making up 5 percent of your hotel bill.
Greece – If you stay in a five star resort, you will pay more tourist tax in Greece, where it is charged depending on the number of hotel stars or the number of rooms rented. The cost is often around €4 ($6.7) per room.
Hungary — Budapest is the only city in Hungary with a city tax, which is calculated as an additional 4% of your room rate per night.
Indonesia – When you visit the Bali hotspot, you pay a one-time fee of €9 ($15) which is used to protect Balinese culture and surroundings.
Italy – Fares depend on where you are; Rome will cost you between €3 and €7 ($5 to $12) per night depending on the room, but apparently smaller cities charge more. Meanwhile, Venice could introduce its own separate tax later this year.
Japan – You pay this 1,000 yen (about $13) tax on the way there.
Malaysia – This flat tax is charged per night and is often around €4 ($6.7) per night.
New Zealand – Travelers, visitors on a working holiday, students and some workers must pay a one-off fee of $35. Our Australian friends have free entry.
The Netherlands – Like Germany, this region has two taxes; a land tourist tax and a water tourist tax. In Amsterdam, this looks like an additional fee of 7 percent of the hotel room cost.
Portugal – This tax is charged per night per person for visitors aged 13 and over. Only €2 ($3.4), valid only for the first seven days of your stay.
Slovenia – Depending on location and hotel rating, you’ll pay a higher fee of around €3 ($5) in big, popular cities like Ljubljana and Bled.
Spain – People aged 16 and over traveling to islands like Ibiza, Mallorca, Formentera and Menorca have to pay a tax in high season, which caps at a maximum of €4 ($6.7) per night.
Switzerland – How much you pay depends on the location, but is often around €2.20 ($3.7) per night per person.
USA – Most states have an occupancy tax that applies to travelers who rent at hotels, motels, and inns. The highest rate is reportedly Houston, which accounts for 17 percent of the hotel bill.