Thailand plans new policy of compulsory insurance for all visitors

Thailand proposes to introduce compulsory travel insurance for international visitors in the near future, as some recent instances of accidents involving tourists have negatively impacted the destination’s safety and security reputation.

Weerasak Kowsurat, Thailand’s minister of tourism and sports, stated that the exponential growth in arrivals into Thailand has intensified the demand for unpaid medical treatment by foreign visitors visiting the country. Consequently, Thailand wants all tourists to be self-insured in future. “I’m introducing a new legislation, probably within this year, to require self-insurance for all arrivals into Thailand. It will be one or two dollars more for each person. This common pool of money will be used to buy one insurance policy to cover all international visitors,” said Weerasak.

“We are barred by law to use our budget to buy insurance policies for international arrivals. If travellers want to get involved in more challenging activities, like climbing mountains or diving in the sea, I’ll put into law to make sure service operators stop them from entering into the activity unless they buy the second level of insurance. And if they’re driving any vehicles, they will need another kind of insurance,” explained Weerasak.

The proposed mandatory travel insurance policy has received positive feedback from tour operators. The modalities of implementation of such a scheme will have to be ironed out.

Philip Wigglesworth, general manager of Destination Asia Thailand, said: “Travel insurance should be compulsory for each visitor so as not to be a burden on the destination. We all have to be responsible visitors and most reputable travel insurance suppliers already offer basic cover for low-risk activities. However, for what we would consider extreme sports, there should be a travel insurance supplement to ensure that the traveller is fully covered for all risks.”

MICE travel operators expect most clients arriving in Thailand to have comprehensive insurance including medical, admitting that most of these policies would exclude activities like rock climbing, sea and sky diving and ziplining, and therefore the mandatory insurance should be included within the activity prices.

The Thai authorities are expected to make it mandatory for all arriving visitors to have comprehensive insurance or buy a local policy upon arrival and entry would be conditional upon it. Other methods suggested are the increase of departure tax from Thailand to pay for the insurance for incoming visitors under the insurance umbrella.