Businesses blame high ‘entry fees’ for deterring travellers at Thai-Malaysia border
The reopening of the Thai-Malaysian border this month raised the hopes of local business owners around the border areas, who thought it would boost the economy in southern Thailand, and the northern states of Malaysia as well. However, things seem to be moving more slowly than expected, with merchants blaming the 5,000-7,000 baht “entry fees” as being too expensive for most Malaysian travellers, so few are crossing over.
The Thai-Malaysian border at Sadao Border Checkpoint in the southern province Songkla reopened on April 1. Vaccinated travellers can now enter by land via the checkpoint under the Test & Go program. But anyone entering the kingdom via land or air must still apply for Thailand Pass, purchase health insurance and take a Covid-19 PCR test upon arrival, as well as book one night at a hotel approved by Thailand’s Safety and Health Administration. Locals say the costs involved are simply too high, especially for the locals that used to move back and forth across the borders for local trade, often on a daily basis.
On Saturday, the owner of a souvenir shop in Songkhla, told Thai media she had seen only two Malaysian customers since the border reopened on April 1. She supposed it was a result of the expensive “entry fees”, i.e. the total costs of applying for entry through the Thailand Pass system, which has deterred Malaysian travellers from crossing over into Thailand.
She informed the media that she wanted the government to consider decreasing the required fees to just 1,000-2,00o baht, in order to attract more travellers from across the border.
The beleaguered business woman she tried to think positively and hopes there will be more travellers after the end of Ramadan on May 1. She added that travellers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines entering at the Sadao Border Checkpoint were at the heart of business in the province. If the entry fees are too high, then locals can’t earn a living, the shop owner said.
After the interview of the shop owner was posted online, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn visited the Sadao Border Checkpoint to review the current entry measures. He noted that Thailand has not yet begun collecting the actual entry fee from travellers, as the introduction of the fee was postponed from April to June. He also insisted that the forthcoming entry fee will be just 300 baht, not 5,000-7,000 baht, as the shop owner had claimed, and that the fee was to be collected from travellers arriving by air first.
He also clarified that the costs mentioned by the shop owner were inclusive of the Covid-19 PCR test, hotel and insurance, which are necessary to apply for Thailand Pass, in accordance with the health measures being used to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
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