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.

9 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. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

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