There are those times you just don’t understand, you read something and you just don’t understand how it can be. Dual pricing in Thailand- charging foreigners a higher price than Thai’s for admission to a site, national park or an attraction- is an “I don’t understand” subject for me.
I struggle to call this dual pricing scheme racist, it seems from comments that many others feel that it is.
My feeling is that it plays more to a stereotype- ‘all foreigners have money and won’t care about paying US$1.50 more than a Thai person’, an opportunity to earn more from foreigners that are only in the country for a short time and ignorance that charging more just for being a foreigner could be taken as offensive.
I believe this dual pricing still exists based on the stereotype and opportunists- many tourists will pay as they want to experience everything they can during their holiday.
If the government supports this kind of scheme- meaning ‘milking’ foreigners for as much money as they can, why don’t they just require a visa on arrival for all foreigners? Everyone pays their $25 or $50 to enter the country, then abolish any dual pricing.
This pricing policy is even more offensive to foreign residents of Thailand. There is a distinct difference between ‘residents’ and ‘foreigners’- residents could be classified as anyone living in the Kingdom, foreigners living here that are paying taxes, owning or renting property, paying for Visa fees, contributing to the local economy at the same rate as a Thai national would.
Yet these residents still must pay more than those they reside with? Okay, that does reek of racism a bit more.
Before emailing me, saying “but Thai’s might not be able to afford to visit some historical sites or national parks if they had a pay a high fee”, I agree with that thinking and logic. How sad for someone to born and raised in Thailand and not be able to afford seeing famous palaces or sites. I would support paying more if it was detailed “the higher entrance fees paid by foreign visitors enable us to open this site/park to a greater number of local visitors” on an entrance sign at a government run site or national park.
A part of me still questions that- there are many, many affluent Thais, just check the flash cars cruising around Bangkok.
But, dual pricing in the private sector? Seriously? And this really blew up this past week when a ferris wheel located at Asiatique opened with dual pricing, and then tried to suppress the backlash when an influential blogger- Richard Barrow- pointed out how ludicrus the dual pricing policy is. Asiatique backed down, or they say the ferris wheel is foreign owned and the foreign owners decided to have a ‘one price’ policy.
More on the backlash can be found on Richard Barrow’s website, where this article can be found:
A few days ago Asiatique posted on their Facebook page the prices for their new 60 meter high Ferris wheel. As they only posted in the Thai language, I posted a comment with an English translation: 200 Baht for Thais and 250 Baht for foreigners. I also posted another comment asking why they had to have two prices. Other people then joined in calling for a boycott. This resulted in my translation of the ticket prices and subsequent comments being deleted. To top that, they also blocked me from posting again on their Facebook page.
Far from quietening down any further comments, news of my banning spread like wild fire on social media and within a short time there were literally hundreds and hundreds of negative comments against Asiatique. Many people were also calling for a boycott. Asiatique’s response went from saying that the big wheel is built on Thai soil and so Thais deserve a discount to saying that the wheel is operated by “farang” and Asiatique has no control over prices. This morning I noticed that all of the pictures of the big wheel had been removed from their front page as if they wanted to distance themselves from the project.
Today saw even more negative comments being posted on their Facebook page. Particularly after this article in the Bangkok Post “Asiatique public relations disaster?” and another on TripAdvisor. It was interesting to see that it wasn’t only foreigners writing complaints. There were also Thais joining in saying that having two prices was unfair. For Asiatique this was obviously a public relations nightmare. The whole incident had been bungled right from the beginning. The mistake wasn’t in having two prices. The mistake was deleting my translation of the prices and then gagging me so that I couldn’t comment. Or so they thought. I have a few followers of my own.
Now finally comes some great news. After some intense pressure from both the foreign and the Thai community, Asiatique has now backed down. First they unblocked me from posting on Asiatique’s Facebook page. Then came the news that they have spoken with the owners of the big wheel and have decided that there will now be only one price for everyone regardless of race or skin colour. I know the price difference was only 50 Baht, but this is an important step in outlawing dual pricing. After all, if China can do it, why can’t we? At least the practice should be banned in Bangkok where many of the richest Thais live and work.
Chris Wooton has written an outstanding blog post “Dual pricing and social media – a dangerous mix for Asiatique The Riverfront” on his website that is a comprehensive read about dual pricing in Thailand. Chris brings up many outstanding points, including that meals served in local street food shops generally only have one price; I would never eat in a place that was charging dual prices for the same food.