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Chiang Mai in Thailand
Photograph: Chiang Mai

Is Thailand’s new tourist fee the future of eco-friendly travel?

The ‘tourism transformation fund’ aims to finance environmentally sound alternatives to mass tourism

Written by
Ed Cunningham
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Considering the devastation wreaked upon tourist economies during the pandemic – and the increasingly severe climate emergency – the travel industry has seen a chance to change its ways. Fortunately, several countries (and companies) around the world are now doing their bit to offer eco-friendly alternatives to mass tourism.

Thailand is the latest country to try and shift the nature of its tourist sector. By introducing a fee for all international visitors of 500 baht (around £11/$15), the Thai government wants to move away from cheap resort tourism and invest in more environmentally sound options.

The government’s goal is to collect 6 billion baht in the first year for a ‘tourism transformation fund’, which will then be directed towards a new economic model for the country’s tourism industry. Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, told the Bangkok Post that the funds would be used to develop eco-friendly projects, as well as to make the country safer and cleaner.

Thailand’s tourist fee comes hot on the heels of its announcement of ‘sandbox schemes’, which have opened up some parts of the country to tourists. The ‘sandboxes’ allow fully vaccinated travellers can visit several Thai regions and islands (including Phuket, Krabi and Surat Thani) without quarantine.

Meanwhile, the country’s current ‘visa exemption’ scheme means that travellers from the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and elsewhere can stay for up to 45 days without a visa. It’s a pretty complicated system with plenty of caveats, so take a look at our up-to-date guide to Thailand’s current travel rules.

So, is the Thai tourist fee a blueprint for the future of travel? It’s likely too early to say. Exact plans for how the country’s tourist economy will become more eco-friendly are still unknown, and the government is yet to lay out how projects will qualify for the ‘tourism transformation fund’.

In any case, for most travellers, that fee will be affordable. And it’ll all be worth it if sometime soon we can be chilling in a beach paradise, Thai street food in hand, safe in the knowledge that we’ve helped contribute to a cleaner, greener world. Sounds just excellent to us.

Want to change your ways post-pandemic? Here are 12 ways to be a better tourist and the amazing destinations pushing for sustainable travel.

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