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Phuket Opinion: A bookable offense

Mich Koh, head of public policy in Southeast Asia for Airbnb, and the global online giant’s regional team will meet with Thai officials next Tuesday (July 3) to discuss “tourism growth and how the company can help drive the sector here”.

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By The Phuket News

Sunday 1 July 2018, 09:00AM


At what stage will officials learn that instant online direct bookings is already part of the modern world? Photo: Reisefreiheit

At what stage will officials learn that instant online direct bookings is already part of the modern world? Photo: Reisefreiheit

The outcome, if any, will be very interesting as the sector is seemingly impossible to regulate, and the current stance verges on impinging on the right of any property owner to allow guests to stay in their abode – notwithstanding that income tax be fully declared and paid.

In a world where people can click to accept terms and conditions and pay online by credit card, online bookings for individually owned accommodations today seem like a legitimate, obvious option. It is also very difficult to see what the Thai government might object to in allowing property owners to rent out their properties at daily rates.

If the issue is income tax, then target that aspect. If the IRS in America can use income tax to bring down Al Capone, there is no excuse for officials for failing to enforce those laws, especially in the internet age where computerised tracking makes enforcement so much easier.

QSI International School Phuket

Again, if the issue is construction quality of the abodes and serious concerns such as fire safety and ensuring that tourists will not unknowingly book themselves into a “slum condo”, then regulate those laws. Japan is currently rolling out its “minpaku” policy whereby property owners must register the premises to be rented out, which is indeed inspected for safety as well as aesthetics, and still holds the property owners liable for making sure all guests are registered with immigration, just as all hotels and landlords here in Thailand must do.

Worse, the oddity exists where the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) itself has been heavily promoting tourism to less developed destinations within the country – the same areas that are far less likely to have hotels. Instead, being less developed, such areas are much more likely to have only small venues that are exactly what Airbnb is designed to serve. Funnily enough, the TAT even heavily promotes that tourists enjoy “homestays” in such areas. How’s that for irony?

The only issue at stake that seems obvious is the revenue generated by an entirely new sector, and there’s no doubt the Thai government wants a slice of that pie – and in this day and age that can easily be rectified, and best so with Airbnb’s help.

 

 

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Winfield | 02 July 2018 - 18:17:36

Those renters who have made an effort to become legal, will not be penalized for offenses committed before they came into line. Those who have completely ignored the law and still trying to hide - will get hammered for everything the Govt can find, dating back as far as they can. This is not my opinion, but that of multiple accountants + lawyers. 

Winfield | 02 July 2018 - 18:06:13

It will be very easy very soon. AIRBNB will reveal to the Govt all the individual account details of their rental listings in Thailand. Govt will catch and make offenders get Health & Safety license (if they qualify) and pay taxes. Viola !

Kurt | 02 July 2018 - 10:09:25

Why thai officials make things unneeded difficult. Just registrate owners as \' renting out rooms/properties'. Let owners report on internet, and mentions the number of days, weeks, months or a year. It is so easy, internet wise. Government can respond with a automatic answer, and check cyber wise once a year or taxes are paid. Why make things difficult as it can be so easy.

KurtTi | 01 July 2018 - 19:38:10

A fine opinion from the PN as always.Officials  always want to fill their pockets.

CaptainJack69 | 01 July 2018 - 12:41:32

In a country where your average citizen pays pretty much zero tax, & has no respect for such rules anyway, how much AirBnB related revenue do you think gets declared? Also note that if you rent your property out in Thailand that also puts it into a higher bracket for land tax. Do you think anyone pays that? Also do any foreigners operating them have work permits?

CaptainJack69 | 01 July 2018 - 12:39:25

Just like with 'ride sharing' services like Grab there are existing regulations that need to be observed. Consumers like these services because they are convenient AND they're cheap. But they're cheap because operators aren't paying what they should, and that makes it unsustainable AND damaging to existing law-abiding operators. The problem isn't so much safety as tax.

bojon | 01 July 2018 - 11:47:54

This policy of more and more tourists is at least in Phuket questionable. In a condo the circulation of a lot of people may not be noticed, no one cares. But in small communities  where there are a limited number of houses and e.g. a common pool, it is not good. We never know who these new people are that make noise - they are on holidays or criminals - it is not to be recommended

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