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Thailand Weekly Vol. 18

Thailand news and stories delivered free every Sunday 🇹🇭

Thailand is back in business baby! With the Thailand Pass now a thing of the past, those that rely on tourism here in the Kingdom are beyond excited for the return of what will hopefully be a solid amount of tourists over the balance of the year and leading into 2023. 

9.3M Tourist Arrivals Expected For 2022

In its most recent estimates, Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sport predicts that the balance of this year will bring more than 7 million travellers to Thailand. Since January 1st, the Kingdom has welcomed just under 2 million visitors as part of the now expired Thailand Pass program, which ultimately resulted in 114 billion baht (USD $3.2 billion) in tourism related revenue. The government is expecting a 10x increase in this figure to 1.27 trillion baht (USD $35.7 billion) by the end of the year. Projections show that there will be 2.7 million arrivals in Q3 followed by another 4.5 million in the fourth quarter high-season, reaching a total of 9.3 million tourist arrivals for the calendar year

The majority of international flight arrivals throughout June have come from India, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the US. The Southern part of the country has especially seen a spike in arrivals with many of Phuket’s daily routes from Malaysia, Singapore, and India being fully booked. The day that the Thailand Pass program ended, Phuket saw an immediate jump from 7000 daily arrivals to upwards of 9000. 

Our Take

Obviously I’m a big fan of this news. As someone that moved to Thailand in January 2021 right in the thick of the pandemic, selfishly, I had the privilege of being able to easily travel domestically and enjoy everything that makes Thailand amazing, but without the crowds. The flip side to that is the fact that no matter where I was (Bangkok, Samui, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pai, etc.), each of these places felt like a shell of their former selves, and many of the locals that rely on a constant stream of tourists had to close up shop and struggled at no fault of their own. The fact that this country is now wide-open for those to come and enjoy everything that it has to offer puts a smile on my face, and my new hope is that the battered tourism industry recovers sooner rather than later, and gets back up to 2019 levels at some point towards the end of 2023 at the latest. 

Thai Banking Apps Crash On Payday

SCB, Bangkok Bank, and TMB Thanachart Bank all had some stumbling blocks this past week when each of their mobile banking apps crashed on Friday July 1st, a common payday. Bangkok Bank customers checking to confirm that their salaries had been deposited were unable to access their app, and those that were able to get in weren’t able to perform standard transactions such as the classic QR code scanning that those living here have become so accustomed to. SCB customers and TMB customers had the same problem and reported similar messages on their banking apps. 

Many Twitter users had little sympathy with one tweeting “I just transferred money from TTB to SCB! Damn, I’m so mad at all of these mobile app makers. I have no money left to eat now.” 

Our Take

This isn’t breaking news or anything like that, but I wanted to include this story as more of an informational piece for those that may not be aware of the most common way that Thai people pay for things. In places like the US, Canada, or Europe, your mobile banking app probably isn’t as important or engrained in daily life as it is here in Thailand. At least back when I was living in Canada and travelling through Europe and the US in 2020, I remember paying for things with my physical credit card, digital credit card as part of my phone’s ‘wallet’, or simply just cash. I only ever used my actual banking app to check balances and then pay bills once or twice a month. 

Here in Thailand, things have quickly shifted to a world where you use your banking app to pay for almost everything. You want to buy a bag of fruit at the market for 20 baht (USD $0.56)? Scan the vendors QR code and pay through your app. You want to make a quick transfer to your friend that bought breakfast that morning? Scan their personal QR code and boom, money sent. It’s so engrained in daily life that if you want to give some money to someone that is homeless here in BKK, many of them also have QR codes set up so you could make a quick transfer. Point is, you can certainly still use cold, hard cash to pay for anything and everything, but the Thai banking apps and their QR code payments/transfers are HEAVILY engrained as part of daily life over here. As per commentary on the story itself, its a shame that there were issues for many people (myself included) this past Friday, but it’s worth noting that this is rare, and since I’ve shifted over to a Thai Bank, I’ve been beyond impressed with the services that they provide. Like I said, I wanted this story to be a little snippet of Thailand info more than anything.    

Thailand Travel Tip

Another hot topic semi-related to the story above that seems to gets asked a lot is “what’s the best way to convert my local currency into Thai Baht?”. Myself, as well as other friends that live here or travel here regularly use Wise and their Wise Debit Card for this. 

Essentially, you take a few minutes to create a profile and then transfer money from your local account to your Wise Account. You can then convert to Thai Baht at the spot rate plus a small fee. After arriving in Thailand, you can then use your Wise Card to pull out cash from most ATM’s and pay for your travel expenses this way. Like I mentioned above, there’s lots of awesome businesses here that ONLY take cash or QR code payment (which requires a Thai bank account). This service has saved me upwards of USD $600 over the past two years, especially when I was still transferring dough from Canada to Thailand as part of my move over here. 

Think about it this way, if you convert USD $1000 worth of whatever your native currency is to Thai Baht via Wise, the amount you’ll save compared to what you pay with the traditional banks would probably be enough to cover a fun night out in Bangkok. Definitely worth it.

Legalization of 5 Casinos Proposed

A house panel is proposing the establishment of five legal casinos where revenue would be taxed at 30%. The move is aimed at combatting illegal gambling rings that currently exist in the Kingdom. One of the leaders of the house committee, Pichet Chuamuangpha, said that after the group’s meeting this past Wednesday, they have submitted their findings to the government for the consideration of five legal casinos strategically situated around the country. These casinos would allow for traditional gambling, as well as online gambling. Patrons would need to be at least 20 years old and provide their financials before entering. Government officials would not be allowed to enter without special permits. The house committee pushing this forward has studied the legalization of casinos in other countries such as Singapore and Malaysia, and have made modifications to the framework so that it’s suitable for Thailand. 

This is a follow up to what we shared in Volume 7 of Thailand Weekly back in May. To give a quick recap, this committee was just about to embark on their feasibility study of casino resorts in Thailand and then submit their findings to the House of Representatives, a task which is now complete. The original concept was to open a full-blown casino resort in Bangkok. There were also rumours that the Thai government was in talks with the Las Vegas Sands Group as part of this. It was also specified that foreigners would not have to show any supporting financial documents to be allowed entry, but that Thais would be.

Our Take

My take on this remains consistent with what I had said in May. Even though I’ve never really gambled, I definitely understand the size of this space and the amount of revenue it drives. I’m all for people being able to spend their money however they want within the boundaries of the law and am not one to take a morale high-ground over those that gamble. If this actually gets pushed through, and Thailand is home to 5x new casinos, I’ll probably check one of them out for a night with some friends and see what it’s all about. My hope is that as a foreigner, I WON’T have to show supporting financial documents in order to gain entry (no one likes that), but let’s see. 

Only In Thailand 🇹🇭

Two women were arrested at one of Bangkok’s airports after authorities found 109 live animals packed into two suitcases. The animals included 50 chameleons, 35 turtles, 20 snakes, two armadillos, and two white porcupines. I have no idea how all of these animals could have fit into just two suitcases, but I’m glad that authorities found them and will hopefully hand them over to Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation. Wild. 

Press Worthy 🔥