The subject of Thailand’s two tiered system with foreigners charged more for certain goods and services than the local population is often a source of angst.
This abridged version of an essay from ‘theconversation.com’; a forum for online academic opinion, gives another perspective. It also shows that prices for tourists aren’t only controversial in Thailand!
“It was recently reported that cafes in Bruges (Belgium) charge tourists 10% more than locals for chips (or fries). Explained as a discount for customer loyalty, tourists automatically end up in a higher price bracket.
This reminded me of a conversation between two tourists in Sicily who felt they were regarded as ‘walking wallets’ by local shop owners, a sentiment often hinted at by holidaymakers when walking foreign streets. As the summer holiday season fast approaches, it’s perhaps timely to question the ethics behind inflated prices for tourists.
One of the most famous places for hiking prices up for visitors is Venice. The city’s ‘two-tier system’ became so extreme that a complaint reached the European Commission in 2015, which claimed discriminatory practices against tourists – the complaint was rejected.
Such differential pricing may seem unfair. But if locals had to start paying the same prices as tourists, it’s likely that many of them would be prevented from enjoying heritage sites in their own communities. Many would be priced out of their own homes. Their wages are rarely anywhere close to the levels of their traveling guests.
A two-tier tourism payment system, where locals are charged less for the same product, may be one way of implementing sustainable tourism practices and protecting valuable resources. We should consider the longer-term impact on valuable resources caused by large numbers of people passing through a location for short intense periods of time, often simply to take a photo.
Recognising the positive contribution that tourists can make is important, but, of course, one needs to be aware when informal “tourist taxes” and inflationary practices become exploitative and fraudulent. When a family in Rome was charged £54 for four ice creams, it made international newspapers, prompting concerns about the way some operators hike the price up for visitors.
There are inevitably going to be hidden and additional costs associated with being a tourist. Some are justified. A degree of sensitivity to local needs and social responsibility toward helping replenish resources and repair damage needs to be balanced against naivety in holiday transactions.”