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Thailand launches safety scheme with medical coverage for tourists

BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand has launched a scheme to offer visitors up to $14,000 in medical coverage in the event of an accident, the tourism minister said Thursday, as the kingdom seeks to lure travelers back after the pandemic.

The government will cover expenses up to 500,000 baht ($14,000) and pay compensation of up to one million baht in case of death under the new scheme.

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic hammered the kingdom's vital tourism sector and arrivals have not bounced back as quickly as officials hoped.

Tourism minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol told AFP the new Thailand Traveller Safety scheme began on January 1 and will run until August 31.

"The campaign aims to assure foreign tourists that Thailand is safe and everyone will be under good care," she said.

The kingdom has long been popular with young backpackers from around the world seeking sun, sand and adrenalin.

But accidents are not uncommon and there have been numerous reports in recent months of young Europeans finding themselves facing big medical bills with inadequate insurance.

The Thai government stresses that the scheme will not cover accidents caused by "negligence, intent, illegal acts" or risky behavior.

Tourists can register for the scheme through the Thailand Traveller Safety website at tts.go.th.

Some 28 million people visited Thailand in 2023, up from 11 million the year before, but still well down from the 40 million who came in 2019, the last year before the pandemic.

Officials are hoping to hit 35 million visitors in 2024, with a target of $55 billion in revenue.

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