A tourist paradise is open to U.S. franchises that are prepared
Thailand is the second largest economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, after Indonesia. But if you plan to do business there: Learn wai, a bow with hands pressed together; avoid confrontation; and understand laughter sometimes covers embarrassment. The concept of “face” is extremely important. Here’s what else you need to know:
Population: 67 million
Size: Twice the size of Wyoming
Official language: Thai. English is the secondary language of the elite
Written language: The Thai alphabet uses symbols and is written from left to right with no spaces between words.
Religion: Buddhism is official religion with 95% of the population
Median age: 35
Type of government: Constitutional monarchy
Time zone: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of D.C.)
GDP: $366 billion (2012 figures)
GDP growth: 6.5 percent
Internet users: 17.5 million (2009)
Currency: Baht (About 30.59 baht per U.S. dollar)
Challenges: Price-conscious consumers are used to low-price imports and local goods; agriculture tariffs are high; government corruption; and weak protection for intellectual property rights.
Regulations to be aware of: The Alien Business Law, which restricts business activities of non-Thai residents; U.S. Foreign Corruption Practices Act
Broadcast media: Of the six TV stations in Thailand, two are owned by the military and the remaining four are owned by the government
U.S. Commercial Service Office: Bangkok
American Chamber of Commerce: http://www.amchamthailand.com/acct/asp/default.asp
Transportation: 63 airports with paved runways; five major seaports; government is focusing resources on rail and high-speed train system.
Traffic: Bangkok has daily traffic jams, so much so that business people are warned to leave plenty of time to make their meetings. Canals make water taxis an option, and some execs work from their cars, according to “Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands,” a guide to doing business in more than 60 countries. Thais are also aggressive drivers, so be mindful when crossing a street.
Franchise industry growth: 20 percent annually
No. of franchisors: 368 (expected to reach 460 over next three years)
Examples of local franchises: Chokdee, a fast-casual restaurant specializing in dimsum; MiniMelts Asia, premium ice cream; Daddy Dough, a doughnut shop; Pingus English Thailand, an English language program for young children based on the popular animated TV character, Pingu, a penguin.
Income: Thailand has been upgraded to upper-middle income economy. Gross National Income (GNI) defines upper-middle-income economy as households with average incomes of US$3,976 to US$12,275. Thailand’s GNI per capita is currently US$4,210, according to The World Bank
Ease of doing business: 18th in the world, according to The World Bank
Ease of getting credit: Ranked 70th in the world
Visa: U.S. citizens with a tourist passport and a return airline ticket will not need a visa if their stay is shorter than 30 days, according to the U.S. Embassy. Passports must be valid for at least six more months. It’s wise to carry your passport on your person at all times in Thailand.
Crime: Just as it’s unwise to make jokes around TSA agents in the U.S., it’s really unwise to be critical of the royal family—in fact, it’s a criminal offense. Terrorism and political unrest is present. Also watch out for pickpockets and don’t let shopkeepers or restaurant servers disappear with your credit card, according to www.gov.uk.
Capital of Thailand
Bangkok, home to 7.5 million people, includes both the Old City, which is considered the spiritual and historical heart, and the downtown area, the business district with both plain, modern buildings and colorful markets. The 12-mile Chao Phraya River runs through the city, allowing numerous floating markets to operate. It is known for its trendy nightclubs, cosmopolitan dining and museums and palaces.
Trade Mission to Thailand
Franchise Times, the International Franchise Association and the U.S. Commercial Service have teamed up to take 12 to 14 companies to both Thailand and the Philippines from July 15-19 on a certified trade mission.
In addition to these two markets, accepted companies may also be eligible for U.S. Commercial Service’s Gold Key programs in nearby Malaysia and Vietnam. (The Philippines , an island country, aren’t on this map, but they are to the east of Vietnam, above Indonesia.)
The trade mission is open to franchisors and also to franchisees, who are interested in extending their holdings outside the U.S.
Deadline for applying is mid-April. For an application and agenda, go to: http://www.franchise.org/SEAsia2014/
Sources for series: CIA World Factbook, U.S. Commercial Service, “Kiss Bow, or Shake Hands,” DK Eyewitness Travel, the World Bank, Gov.uk, U.S. Embassy, DoingbusinessThailand.com.