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General facts

Population: 66.7 million
Capital: Bangkok
Official language: Thai
Currency: Baht
Religion: Thai Buddhism

Key industries

Car manufacturing

Approximately two million cars and trucks are manufactured per year in Thailand and these include vehicles for international companies such as Ford, Volkswagen and BMW. The manufacture of automotive parts is also a key contributor to Thailand’s economy and in 2018, it was the world’s 13th largest automotive parts exporter. The automotive industry as a whole employs approx. 500,000 people in Thailand and in 2018, exports were valued at approx. 950 billion baht.

Electronics

Thailand is one of the biggest manufacturers of electronics in South East Asia and as a result, the government offers incentives to encourage international companies to invest in this sector. In 2018 the total value of exports of electronics produced in Thailand was $62.1 billion. Thailand is one of the biggest producers of air conditioning units and refrigerators in the world and it has approximately 2,419 companies in the electrical and electronics industry which employ a total of  753,357 people .

Food distribution

Thailand is one of the world’s largest rice producers, producing around 21 million tonnes per year. Approximately 11 million tonnes of this is consumed within Thailand whilst the rest is exported. The agricultural sector represented 33% of employment in 2017 and 60% of all farmers in Thailand produce rice. Thailand is also the largest exporter of Durian fruit and it accounts for 80% of global exports, a large proportion of which is supplied to China.

Tourism

Famous for its beautiful beaches and UNESCO sites, Thailand was the 10th most visited country in the world in 2018 as it welcomed approximately 35 million tourists. This figure not only accounted for leisure tourism but also people travelling abroad to do business or seek medical treatment and visit health retreats. In 2017 the industry was estimated to have created 2.3 million jobs, a figure which is expected to have increased by approximately 1 million in 2028.

Approach to business (things to keep in mind)

  • Based on the teachings of Buddhism, the aim of the people who live here is to be refined and to avoid any rude behaviour. Approach people with a friendly smile and always return a wai (prayer-like gesture with hands together).
  • Saving face is very important in Thailand, so do not contradict someone or talk over them when they are speaking.
  • Decisions will most likely be made by the most senior members of a company as hierarchy is very important in Thai business.
  • It is acceptable to wear a suit to a business meeting however if attending a meeting at someone’s home, make sure your shoes are easy to remove as this will be expected.
  • Relationships are very important when doing business in Thailand therefore negotiations will not be discussed unless you’ve had a face-to-face meeting first.

Dos and Don’ts in a business meeting

Do…

  • …Take your time when handing out your business card. You should present it with your right hand, with the Thai translation facing up. Likewise, you should take time to read a business card given to you and compliment it if possible.
  • …arrive early and confirm the meeting the day before. If you fail to do so, this will likely be perceived as disrespectful and discourteous.
  • … Leave enough time to get to meetings as traffic can be very heavy particularly in large cities such as Bangkok.
  • …be prepared for several meetings to take place before any deals are discussed. These may be in the context of dinners in order to establish a relationship first.

Don’t…

  • …point your fingers as this is considered to be extremely rude in Thailand. If you would like to indicate to someone during a meeting, use your chin to point in their direction.
  • …be surprised if some of the questions you are asked seem very personal. Questions will often be asked at the start of a meeting to establish hierarchy which is very important in Thailand.
  • …be alarmed if someone starts laughing for no apparent reason. This probably means that they feel uncomfortable and may wish to change the topic of conversation.
  • …be aggressive or too pushy when trying to close a deal. This behaviour is rude in Thai business and it is very unlikely that you will finalise a deal this way.
  • …pass anything over someone’s head as the head is sacred in Thailand. Similarly, you should not touch anyone’s head or hair.
  • … say anything disrespectful about the Thai Royal Family as this is a criminal offence in Thailand.