By Maëlle Alquezar

Office Building in Bangkok

Thailand is a huge market for exporters. With 67 million inhabitants, Thailand is the second largest economy in Southeast Asia. And it also has a strong trade and investment relationship with the UK. In 2011, UK exports of goods increased by 28% compared to 2010. Even if its economy suffered from the impact of the devastating floods, the country is recovering well and its 2012 GDP was expected to grow by 5-6%. Now let’s discuss business opportunities and some tips regarding communication in Thailand.

The UK is Thailand’s most significant European investor and the second-largest European exporter after Germany. There are a wide range of commercial opportunities in Thailand from infrastructure to renewable energy. Thailand is also being seen by British companies more and more as a regional base allowing them to work with other Asian countries. British products have an excellent reputation in Thailand. However, you should be aware that Thai consumers count on cheap prices and quality customer service.

As mentioned below, there are many business opportunities there for UK companies. The priority sectors include advanced engineering, agriculture, education and training, environment, food and drink, etc. As Thailand is aiming to be Asia’s medical hub, the healthcare, medical devices and pharmaceutical sectors also have real potential. The tourism industry is equally doing very well in Thailand with a 16%-increase of the number of tourists (i.e. 22.3 million) in 2012 compared to 2011. And these figures are expected to grow to 24.5 million tourists in 2013. As a consequence, there are many opportunities in the following sectors: tourism, sports and leisure equipment.

In terms of communication, you should be very careful and adapt your marketing campaign to local regulations, tastes and cultural preferences. There are four main Thai languages including Central Thai, Southern Thai, North-eastern Thai and Thai. Making an effort to speak Thai will be greatly appreciated by Thai people. Although English is spoken in big companies, SMEs generally have a lower level of proficiency in English. With regards to your marketing documents (such as brochures, price lists), you will need to make sure they are accurate in English. Offering a Thai version is also highly recommended. You should also avoid religious symbols and satires of the local culture in your marketing campaign.

Bangkok TempleRegarding the media, the best way to reach Thai consumers is TV advertising. If you cannot afford it, you can also use the internet which is becoming more and more important in Thailand, even if users only represented 30% of the population by mid-2012 (i.e. 20,100 internet users).

With regards to day-to-day communication, your emails and phone conversations are likely to be in English. However, if the standard of English is not satisfactory, it is advisable to ask for a Thai version and have it translated by professional translators in order to avoid any misunderstandings. Language can also be an obstacle during meetings: if so, it is highly recommendable to use interpreters. You should use a trustworthy interpreter as he/she is the key to communicating successfully. Keep in mind that interpreting requires special skills and training so make sure to use a professional interpreter if you want quality services.

Have you already worked in Thailand? If so, what have you learnt from this experience?

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  • Christopher

    The fourth paragraph contains an error : “There are four main Thai languages including Central Thai, Southern Thai, North-eastern Thai and Thai.”

    Surely the last should read “Northern Thai” . . .

    • Emma

      Hi Christopher! Thanks for your feedback. It says in the UKTI ‘Guide to Doing Business in Thailand’ – “There are four main Thai languages spoken in Thailand (Central Thai, Southern Thai, North-eastern Thai and Thai – which is used in Northern Thailand and Laos).”