Wat Sriutumporn in Nakhon Sawan, a second-tier province being promoted for tourism. Karnjana Ayuwattanachai
The government is mulling offering additional tax incentives and discount tour packages to lure the elderly to take part in more domestic travel.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who chaired a meeting of the National Tourism Policy Committee Monday, said the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will team up with tour companies to launch discount tour packages for elderly groups, while the Finance Ministry is studying tax incentives for taxpayers who fund their parents’ travels.
“I’ve already talked to the Revenue Department and they agreed on the proposed tax measures,” said Mr Somkid.
TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn needs to work on the details with the department, he said.
“The measures should be implemented as soon as possible to support tourism, particularly in second-tier provinces,” said Mr Somkid.
The cabinet late last year approved tax breaks for tourism spending in 55 provinces, a move aimed at spurring travel and distributing income to provinces dubbed “secondary”.
The tax breaks, scheduled to be effective from Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2018, will be offered to individual travellers who spend on accommodation, food and drinks, as well as corporations that organise seminars and meetings at these secondary locations, which welcome fewer than 4 million tourists a year.
Those who spend on accommodation, food and drinks at secondary locations in 2018 can use their receipts to claim a tax deduction of up to 15,000 baht, while companies can claim up to 100% of the cost of seminars and training sessions.
The government is estimated to lose 200 million baht in revenue from tax breaks.
These incentives are viewed as necessary because a Tourism and Sports Ministry survey found that 50% of tourists prefer travelling to the 22 main provinces, including places like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Surat Thani and Khon Kaen.
Travellers will be allowed to use receipts instead of full tax invoices to claim their deductions, as most tourism operators in secondary provinces, including homestay and food outlets, make less than 1.8 million baht income a year.
In the meantime, an informed source at the Revenue Department said that the tax-collecting agency is exploring appropriate methods to inspect whether taxpayers are travelling accompanied by their parents.
The conclusion will seek the approval of Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong, the source said, adding that such research is difficult to carry out.
According to Mr Somkid, related state agencies were also ordered to develop tourism sports, facilities and infrastructure to connect main provinces and second-tier provinces while the Tourism and Sports Ministry was told to design necessary facilities.
According to Mr Yuthasak, the Thai population amounted to 66 million in 2017, of which 22% or 14.5 million were over 55 years old.
The number of people aged 55-70 years old who are still physically and financially capable of travelling were about 10.5 million.
He said the TAT’s statistics showed elderly people spent an average 5,197.76 baht per day while on tourism trips, which was higher than the average 2,525.38 baht per day spent by the average Thai.
The TAT itself has planned three tourism packages for the elderly, including “Silver Family” packages that are suitable for the elderly who want to travel with their families; “Silver Romance” packages for the elderly that want to travel with their spouses; and “Silver Outing” packages that are suitable for the elderly who favour charity activities.
In a related development, Mr Somkid also authorised the Transport Ministry to conduct a feasibility study on extending the Bangkok-Hua Hin high-speed train route to reach Chumphon in a bid to facilitate visitors to Chumphon which has double-track rail network to connect with Ranong.
Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said the ministry has already submitted the Bangkok-Hua-Hin high-speed train to the Public Private Partnership (PPP) committee, which will be included into the government’s fast-track PPP project. The project has already passed environmental impact assessment approval.
The Bangkok-Hua Hin high-speed train is worth about 97.67-billion-baht.
Mr Arkhom said the ministry pledged to conduct a feasibility study to extend the project to Chumphon and Hat Yai.
Mr Somkid Monday also authorised related agencies to speed up the “Thailand Riviera” development, which will be expanded from the previous plan to cover Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon and Ranong.