ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thailand’s “Elite Card” fiasco comes to an end
The Tourism and Sports Ministry, whose state agency the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is TPC's sole owner, was instructed to prepare to compensate the 2,500-odd members should any of them take legal action once their membership is revoked.
The ministry yesterday asked the government to set aside 2.5 billion baht to compensate members and staff once the company shuts down.
Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart said the cabinet turned down the request but asked the ministry to submit details for consideration next week at what is expected to be the final cabinet meeting of this government.
Elite Card, launched in 2003, promised fast-track immigration, discounts at resorts and golf courses and other perks.
With members paying 1 million baht (US$33,500) for a lifetime membership - prices later rose to 1.5 million - the goal was to attract a million subscribers in five years for revenue of 1 trillion baht.
Political changes and hyped services led to the Elite Card flop, with only 2,565 members from 65 countries in its eight years in operation. TPC reportedly suffers a debt burden of more than 1.4 billion baht.
Battling to survive, TPC two years ago sought cabinet approval to allow private investment in the company. But the request was rejected, as the government would not allow companies to make decisions on visa fees.
Pensuda Priaram, the TAT's deputy governor for tourism products and business, said the 60-day deadline for terminating the company and the card would be hard to meet under the rules.
The TAT must come up with 500 million baht to pay for overdue registered capital to pave the way for termination, and plans to seek the sum from the Budget Bureau.
Prakit Chinamourphong, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said the project should have been shut down a long time ago.
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