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Thailand’s Plan to Boost Tourism Is to Pay People to Explore Its Hidden Gems

Forget Phuket. Screw Pattaya.

by Mustika Hapsoro
24 April 2019, 10:46am

Image via Shutterstock

For many years, Thailand has dominated lists of most popular destinations in the world. In 2018, Forbes named Bangkok the most visited city in the world for the third year in a row. With such hype built around the country already, you’d think it wouldn’t need any more publicity to promote its tourism.

But it turns out that only a handful of areas in the country bring in more than 30 million tourists each year. Now, in a bid to lure people to travel to its lesser-known cities, the Thai government is paying people to wander within the country.

Thailand has set up a budget of 15 million baht ($468,000 USD) for this campaign. So far, it hasn't released details on how people can apply, but to qualify, you need to be a Thai citizen aged 18 or older. Each person will get an allowance of 1,500 baht ($46 USD) to spend in any of the 55 cities listed in the campaign's proposal.

“We aim to launch the campaign before July this year,” a representative from the finance ministry told Thai news outlet The Nation.

The campaign also aims to promote mobile payments in more secluded regions. According to the campaign, the government will deposit money into the participant’s accounts through an e-payment system. Participants are then expected to use the funds to make cashless purchases throughout the trip.

Thailand is currently experiencing a boom in mobile payments. It has the largest penetration rate of mobile payments in the region at 67 percent, ahead of its neighbours Singapore and Malaysia.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the campaign is expected to bring up the country's GDP by 0.3 to 0.5 percent.

Anusorn Tamajai, the dean of Rangsit University’s economics faculty, also told The Nation that he welcomes the government’s plan, especially as "’the drought has severely affected the welfare of people living in rural areas."

Since the beginning of the year, Thailand has been experiencing very low rainfall. Meteorologists have even predicted that the amount of rain in Thailand this summer will be the lowest in 30 years. As many as 17 provinces in the north and northeast region will risk severe drought and would soon experience water shortage.

Although tourism might be good for the economy, overtourism can have devastating consequences on the environment. While the government is encouraging locals to boost domestic tourism, other parts in Thailand are flooded with tourists.

Last year, Thailand saw a record of 38.27 million tourists, a 7.5 percent increase from 2017. This year, around 41 million tourists are expected to arrive around holiday seasons.

Last June, the famous Maya Bay in Thailand's Phi Phi Leh was shut down in an effort to save its reefs from destruction due to overtourism. Not long after its closure, sharks were spotted swimming in the beach again.

According to reports, Maya Bay was initially scheduled to reopen in October 2018, but it's still closed today and will remain so indefinitely. As many tourists, local and international, are waiting for the area to recover and reopen, this would be a great opportunity for people to explore the lesser-known areas of Thailand. Of course, on the condition that they won’t bring destruction along with them.