The Koh Chang authorities really have outdone themselves this time. On 9 August, the first cruise ship to moor at the island since the days of the Siam Steam Packet back in the early 20th Century, visited. The ship moored off Koh Chang, mid-way between the island and the mainland. Visitors were then ferried to the island by the cruise ship’s launches. It was a boom for businesses and transport operators who were obviously pleased with having 1,500 well heeled visitors arrive on the island in the middle of low season. It’s estimated the visitors spent around 2.4 Million Baht in the few hours they were on the island.
But the National Park seemed to feel that it was their job to go out of their way to deter future cruise ships from visiting by demanding a hitherto unannounced payment of 320,000 Baht from the cruise ship for allowing their guests to set foot onto the island.
At no point in the 9 months or so between the cruise being announced and it taking place, had the ship’s owners or anyone connected with the cruise been informed that there would be any type of fee for visiting the island.
There isn’t any charge for going onto Koh Chang.
The visitors didn’t enter the National Park.
There is a fee for anyone taking a diving or snorkelling trip to the islands south of Koh Chang, but none of these passengers were doing that. The cruise ship didn’t moor off a small rock so people could jump off and swim for a while.
Passengers on the ferries don’t pay this, people arriving by their own boat don’t pay this. Yet, the National Park officials decided the cruise ship, who will have to pass this unannounced, hidden, fee onto their passengers – did have to pay.
A couple of hundred Baht probably wont make mush difference to the average cruise ship guest. This is more about the principle of demanding money on a whim. Which sadly is a growing trait amongst many Thais when they see the possibility to take advantage of visitors.
Cruise ship staff are furious after they were told they had to pay 320,000 Baht for their “high end tourists” to step on Koh Chang yesterday.
The staff said they had no idea before the visit of their ship packed with 1,400 “quality tourists” that they would have to front up a bill for just disembarking, reported Thairath.
Thai tourism officials in Trat were rubbing their hands in glee when they heard that the Pacific Eden – an Australian luxury liner packed with big spending and wealthy tourists from Britain, Australia and New Zealand – was to anchor off Koh Chang Noi Bay.
But no one had told the boat staff there would be a charge of 200 baht for foreign adults and 100 baht for their kids. Some 1,400 people of the 2000 passengers and crew aboard disembarked.
Jakraphan Tawethikun of the Trat Tourism office had said that these are just the kind of visitors the island and country needs. It was estimated that they spent 2.4 million baht at souvenir shops, restaurants and on transport in one brief visit.
That equated to about $40 US dollars or 1,500 baht each.
The TAT were thrilled that the liner came here as not too many drop in at Asian ports. They have a policy of trying to attract what they call “quality” tourists who will spend big and they were delighted that the “high end” tourists felt it was safe here and they would be assured of a great welcome.
However it was the “hidden” extra that irked the ship’s crew.
An unnamed member of the liner’s staff was less than happy. “They should have announced beforehand that visitors would have to pay fees just for stepping on the island. This would avoid problems and annoyance when people are charged later” the staff member said.
It appeared that the 320,000 Baht was paid in a lump sum to the National Park office on the island and that the annoyance would be felt later when the charges would be passed on to the tourists for the privilege of visiting Koh Chang.
“They need to be told beforehand,” said the staff member, “so they can make the decision whether to disembark or not”.