Dual-pricing is scaring tourists away

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The widespread practice of overcharging foreign visitors must be curbed if Thai tourism is to prosper again

The Nation, Editorial – 4 September 2014

Thailand’s tourism industry has been adversely affected by years of street protests, political violence and, recently, martial law imposed by the coup-makers. But the widespread practice of overcharging and double-pricing is also playing a major role in scaring visitors away from Thai shores.

Long-term foreign residents and regular visitors to Thailand have been complaining about a “two-tier” pricing system for years. Though some visitors may regard paying a little extra just a minor nuisance, others feel they are being discriminated against and point out that the discrepancy can be large, with foreigners charged double or more.

Tourists and foreign expatriates who do not speak or read Thai often fall prey to greedy taxi drivers, street vendors and other business operators. They also experience dual-price entry fees for tourist attractions such as national parks or temples. At popular Bangkok sites like Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) locals are let in free while foreigners pay to enter.

And to get there, tourists may have to deal with taxi drivers who refuse to use the meter for foreign passengers, who can then find themselves paying double or triple for the trip. So common is this practice among cab drivers, that a foreign tourist made the news recently for expressing gratitude to a cabby who had agreed to turn on the meter.

Well-known local blogger Richard Barrow recently publicised plans to increase the entry fee for foreigners at Wat Pho, from Bt100 to Bt200, starting in January. “The price remains free for Thais. The argument is that Thais will make merit by donating money. But what about the Thai Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, etc, who also get in for free? Why is that fair when foreign Buddhists have to pay so much?” wrote Barrow on his website.

Overcharging and double-pricing are also a problem for foreign tourists in some other countries. But the problem is a perennial topic of discussion among visitors to the Kingdom and is damaging Thailand’s reputation. This means that it is likely scaring away prospective tourists and discouraging repeat visits.

“It begins with the people”, declares the Tourism Authority’s “Amazing Thailand” campaign, suggesting that the friendliness of ordinary Thais is the main lure for foreigner visitors. Indeed, Thailand’s deserved reputation as the “land of smiles” attracts millions of tourists. But when “the people” turn greedy and selfish, the smile fades and so does the attraction for would-be visitors.

Tourism is a major revenue-earner for Thailand, accounting for about 10 per cent of the economy. In the first seven months of this year, tourist arrivals totalled 13.62 million, down 10.7 per cent from 15.26 million a year earlier.

The authorities have taken several measures in a bid to woo back visitors. These include waiving visa fees for Chinese tourists, who constitute the largest group of visitors to Thailand, and extending the maximum permitted length of stay for tourists from 48 countries. Campaigns have been organised in Asean countries like Singapore and Indonesia in a bid to persuade their nationals to visit Thailand again.

However, if we are serious about attracting more tourists to the Kingdom, we need to put the smile back on the face of this land by curbing the practices of overcharging and dual-pricing.

14 responses to “Dual-pricing is scaring tourists away

  1. I try to avoid these dual priced attractions where ever possible. I can understand that poor Thai people should get free admission, but most Thais who roll up in expensive cars aren’t poor.
    Imagine if the boot was on the other foot and Thais in the UK were charged £20.00 to visit museums, galleries etc that are free to us Brits.
    Imagine an £8.00 fee to visit an English Heritage site where the Thai price is £80.00?
    Most Thais in the UK come from wealthy families or have a British spouse.
    In the case of the latter, the increased charge could be waived

  2. i have been to thailand and this double fees in so many things including dr surgery stinks….unless this changes i may just goes to india and elsewhere…where im wanted..i love thailand in many ways but this is wrong…sure i can afford it but it is so insulting to be taken advantage of

  3. Iam aware of the “jacked up” prices for foreigners. To be honest it doesnt really bother me. I always find a happy medium when i goto purchase goods or services based on my own personal budget.
    What really discusts me is how the poor Thai people are exploited by the western societies. We come to their beautiful country and expect everything for next to nothing.
    Have you ever spoke with these lovely people and seen how hard it is for them to make a living? I recently spoke with a young lady at my hotel who works in house keeping. She cleans 20 rooms per day, Works 10 hours each day and has 2 days off a month all for $9300 baht! (Approx $257 US dollars). If i were to do the same job as she back in Australia i’d make that money in appprox 2 days! Can you not see how unjust it is? This girl couldnt even aford a one way air ticket to Australia for a holiday, let alone accomodation, spending money, eating expenses etc. Now do you see where the inhospitablity lies? Its not with them. Its with us! The so called “farang / falang””.
    Theres no fair reciprocation. If i invite you to my place for dinner and play host to your every whim and delight is it not only fair that you invite me to yours? So think again people.
    Take a good hard look at yourselves and what youve become in your own lands so much that it propels you to escape your own pent up realities for a bit of release at the expense of others less fortunate.
    The dual pricing system is there for a reason, good or bad and chapters could be written on this alone. Think twice next time you go to frown, whinge or complain about price variences. After all, its just another day for you in paradise!

  4. Mrbikeadventures

    Government hospital Hua Hin is charging 300baht doctor fee for foreigner, thai if they need to pay (normally free) the fee is 50 baht.

    On top of the bill foreigners are billed an extra 15% over the total including medication!

    The problem is you can’t choose if you need a hospital. They can charge you whatever they like. They are backed up by the ministry of public health and they don’t feel the need to explain the double pricing.

    • Maybe some justification in the doctors fee as the Thai doctor has to speak/treat in a language foreign to him.

      But the medicine … No…. An Aspirin is an Aspirin no matter what nationality takes it.

  5. I actually don’t mind the dual pricing. Think about it as lower prices for Thais rather than higher prices for foreigners. Tourists visiting Thailand will generally be wealthier than most Thais. The lower prices for Thais allows citizens to experience their culture which the majority couldn’t do if everyone was charged the same price. My children were born in Thailand but don’t live there now- they receive ‘Thai’ prices when we visit even though they don’t have a Thai ID. On our last visit we had to visit hospital as we were all unwell – didn’t pay for anyone (Thai or not) only paid for medication. The afore mentioned 300Baht for a visit to the hospital is very reasonable for a foreigner – we can pay $300 at home in our own country.

  6. Mrbikeadventures

    Not every foreigner is a touirist and certainly not every Thai is poor. The constitution is very clear about discrimination. There is simply no justice in Thailand. It al commes down to disrespect and greed!

  7. It is not culture to visit Ripley’s, a waterpark, an aquarium, all of which charge foreigners far more than Thais. It is not a lower price for Thais when the number of Thais outweigh Foreigners 1000:1. It is quite simply price gouging for private companies to charge different prices dependent on nationality.

  8. There is the perfect solution now to the often-quoted statement that ‘Thai people are comparatively poor’. In reality, many, many Thais have incomes equal to or in excess of mine and, I’d guess, a great many resident foreigners. That’s ‘ordinary’ Thais – office workers, teachers, civil servants, small business owners etc., etc. – not the super-rich.

    The government has recently begun to make payments to the poor of Thailand and it seems they’ll be issued with a card to identify them as such.

    Problem solved; bearers of these cards get a reduced price, everybody else – foreign or Thai – gets a single, standard price for adults & kids.

    • I think you’ll find that the idea of placing income on national ID cards was dropped. I remember it causing a lot of anger among Thai people at the time.

      • When you say ” … at the time …”, I get the impression you’re talking about something quite a while ago.

        The cards I’m talking about – described as ‘Welfare Cards’ and not involving ‘placing income on national ID cards’ – were proposed earlier this year and were to be issued to the ‘registered poor’ from October 1st. 2017. The Thai Fiscal Policy Office had 14 million applications from ‘poor’ people but 2.5 million of those were rejected.

        http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30325331

        • Not that long ago and within the time of the current administration.

          It would have helped if you’d been more detailed as you now have.

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