Minister of Tourism and Sports Pipat Ratchakitprakarn has acknowledged that recent controversies involving the Royal Thai Police (RTP) and the Thailand Privilege Card (TPC) have damaged the reputation of both law enforcement and tourism organizations. The minister is taking steps to address the situation with a Cabinet meeting scheduled next week set to discuss the allegations.
This comes after an MP from the Pheu Thai Party made allegations that shady Chinese business operators had become members of the Thailand Elite Card, a privilege program under TPC, which is owned by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
Several recent controversies have made headlines including a VIP police escort service for Chinese tourists and a Taiwanese actress claiming that the RTP extorted her. To address these concerns, the minister is prioritizing efforts to educate consulates and embassies about the responsibility and roles of authorities and what they are – and are not – allowed to do.
Pipat states that the Tourist Police are only authorized to assist tourists through commands from the RTP or the Tourism Ministry. They are forbidden from charging a fee for their services.
“It is the duty of the Tourist Police to provide convenience for both Thais and foreigners. In the past, there were regular requests for motorcades for several tour buses or important guests. These services must be free of charge.”
The Tourist Police Bureau is currently investigating the recent sensational stories, and the Tourism Minister says that, if true, the VIP escort for Chinese tourists for 7,000 baht is illegal. The ministry is vowed to respond to every claim of impropriety including from the parliament.
The Thailand Elite Card has membership levels from 600,000 baht to 2 million baht. It includes services like fast-tracking immigration and limousine transfers, as well as escorts through the airport and baggage claim. But Pipat says there are defined privileges and regulations, and the TAT denies involvement in recent controversies outside of those parameters.
The ministry has set a tourism revenue target for this year of 2.38 trillion baht, roughly 80% of the tally in 2019, from 25 million foreign tourists and 160mn domestic trips. With China allowing tour groups to travel to 20 countries, including Thailand, it is possible that foreign arrivals could reach 30 million this year.
With tourism targeted at 25 million foreign arrivals generating 2.38 trillion baht in revenue, the Tourism Ministry wants to restore the reputation of law enforcement and tourism organizations.
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