Tourism operators support a proposal to slash import duty on luxury items, saying it is essential for the industry to achieve its potential.
The Finance Ministry is studying the pros and cons of cutting or waiving import duties for some luxury items.
Some business operators, especially in the industrial sector, have expressed their concerns, saying it would trim the competitiveness of Thai goods producers.
But Suthikiati Chirathivat, chairman of Centara Hotels & Resorts, said any negative effect would only be short-lived while the positive returns would be huge in the long run.
He said such a policy would attract more foreign tourists to spend more in Thailand as well as high-income Thai shoppers who would shop for expensive goods at home instead of flying overseas to spend a lot of money.
Mr Suthikiati said lower import duty would help Thailand to become an integrated tourism destination as the sector is a key driver of the economy with an impact on related industries.
"Our rivals such as Hong Kong and Singapore are unable to beat us on natural sites, so they need to build up casinos and keep their import duty low to attract shoppers," he said.
"They attract millions of travellers, but why do we leave that room for them? We have an edge over them in all aspects except as a market for shoppers.
"I hope the government will seriously and sincerely support the industry with a clear direction and plan.
"We will definitely become the strongest player in the Asean Economic Community in the travel industry, given that we have the best [natural] resources in the region."
Bert van Walbeek, chairman of the Thailand chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata), said shopping is a major factor in the selection of holidays and meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) destinations.
Tax-free or low-tax shopping is very motivational and would help Thailand to remain Asia's preferred tourism destination.
"The cost of such [luxury] items is crucial," said Mr van Walbeek.