Thailand - Country Commercial Guide
Selling Factors and Techniques
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Price, quality, and availability of service are the key selling factors in Thailand.  Additionally, relationships and trust are critically important when selling products and services in Thailand, especially to the government.  U.S. suppliers are strongly encouraged to seek partnerships with a local agents or distributors and to provide training for marketing and the technical support staff as the basis for successful market entry and expansion in Thailand.

Trade Promotion & Advertising

In 2023, total media spending in Thailand was estimated to grow 5 percent to $2.59 billion of which $1.15 billion would be spent on TV, $857 million on the internet, and $33 million on the home advertisement.  This year, outdoor media spending bolstered by election campaigns and related political activities with total spending around $300 million.

According to the Datareportal report 2023, Thailand has almost 70 million people and 101.2 million unique mobile subscribers, representing a penetration rate of approximately 141 percent of the total population.  As of January 2023, there were 52.25 million social media users in Thailand, approximately 73 percent of the total population.  The top three social media platforms are Facebook (98%), YouTube (98%), and LINE (96%).  The number of social media users in Thailand is expected to reach 62 million in 2025.

The top three popular internet activities are watching videos online at 98 percent, streaming TV content at 53 percent, and playing online games at 36 percent.  In terms of social media advertising audiences, the top four active audiences are Facebook, Tiktok, Instagram, and Twitter respectively.  The top three eCommerce activities are searching online for a product or service (90%), visiting an online retail store (85%), and purchasing a product online (82%). 

Commercial promotions are an equally important marketing tool for both consumer and industrial products in Thailand.  Consumer trade promotion in Thailand is frequently conducted by offering premium gifts, discount coupons, or drawings for items such as package tours, cars, or electrical appliances. 

Consumer trade promotion events are frequently held in supermarkets and shopping malls.  Exhibiting firms repeatedly take part in these events because the cost of attending is much lower than participating in a privately organized trade fair. 

The Department of Trade Promotion in Thailand frequently holds industry exhibitions to promote Thai exports to international buyer audiences during “trade days” and increases domestic awareness by staging “public days” at such fairs.  Trade events are now commonly hybrid events, adding virtual or live streaming for content to in person sessions.

Industrial product promotion, on the other hand, varies from industry to industry.  The two most efficient methods of promotion for industrial products are trade exhibitions and social media advertisements.  Trade fairs with an industry focus serve as a screening tool since exhibitors can be certain they will have access to the appropriate group of customers.

The Commercial Section at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok maintains a list of suggested industry events staged in Thailand as well as U.S. Pavilions at local events and trade missions.  It is advisable to localize all product literature and technical specifications when advertising in trade journals, participating in trade shows, or organizing technical seminars.  Successful firms also arrange for their agents to receive specialized training at offices or factories in the United States.

Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services

AnchorAnchorAccording to the Foreign Business Act (FBA) of 1999, certain types of business activities are reserved for Thai nationals only.  Foreign investment in those businesses must be comprised of less than 50 percent of the share capital unless specially permitted or otherwise exempt.

The following lists, attached as annexes to the FBA, detail restricted businesses for foreigners:

List 1: The following list contains activities prohibited for foreign-nationals, including:

  • The Press, radio broadcasting stations, and radio and television station businesses.
  • Rice farming, plantation, or crop growing.
  • Livestock farming.
  • Forestry and timber processing from a natural forest.
  • Fishery, only in respect of the catchment of aquatic animals in Thai waters and specific economic zones of Thailand.
  • Extraction of Thai medicinal herbs.
  • Trading, auction, and sale of antique objects of Thailand or objects of historical value.
  • Making or casting of Buddha images and monk alms-bowls.
  • Land trading.

List 2: The following list contains activities related to national safety or security, or those which affect arts and culture, tradition, folk handicrafts, or natural resources and the environment.  Among other things, they include:

  • The production, sale, and maintenance of firearms and armaments.
  • Domestic transportation by land, water, and air.
  • Trading of Thai antiques or art objects.
  • Mining, including rock blasting and rock crushing.
  • Timber processing for production of furniture and utensils.

Remark: A foreign majority-owned company can engage in List 2 activities if Thai nationals or legal persons hold at least 40 percent of the total shares, and the number of Thai directors is a least two-fifths of the total number of directors.

Exceptions exist for companies that receive the following:

  • Permission from the Minister of Commerce with approval by the Cabinet (if there is a reasonable cause, the Minister, with the approval of the Cabinet, may reduce the Thai shareholding requirement, which cannot be less than 25% of the total shares).
  • Investment promotion from the Board of Investment
  • Authorization by the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand.
  • Permission under a treaty to which Thailand is bound.

List 3: The following list contains activities in which there are economic protections for Thai nationals. Among other things, they include:

  • Accounting, legal, architectural, or engineering services.
  • Retail and wholesale.
  • Advertising businesses.
  • Hotels.
  • Guided touring.
  • Selling food or beverages.
  • Any kind of service business.

The Thai government forbids foreigners who wish to work, conduct, and offer professional services under List 3. 

Exceptions to List 3 exist for companies that receive the following:

  • Permission from the Director-General of the Department of Business Development at the Ministry of Commerce, with approval by the Foreign Business Committee, on obtaining a Foreign Business License.
  • Investment promotion from the Board of Investment or from the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand, on obtaining a Foreign Business Certificate from the Director-General of the Department of Business Development at the Ministry of Commerce.
  • Protection under a treaty or obligation to which Thailand is bound, including the U.S. Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations (please see below for further information on the U.S. Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations); the Thai-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA); Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA); and ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS).  Each of these agreements and treaties allows companies to obtain a Foreign Business Certificate from the Director-General of the Department of Business Development at the Ministry of Commerce.

Further restrictions on foreign ownership in specific sectors, such as telecommunications, banking, and insurance, are regulated in specific laws pertaining to these sectors, such as the Telecommunications Business Act (2006), the Financial Institution Business Act (2008), the Life Insurance Act (1992), and the Non-Life Insurance Act (1992).  

The Thai government forbids foreigners who wish to work, conduct, and offer professional services under List 3.  In addition, a foreigner who wishes to do business in specific industries, including import and export business, and those selling food and/or alcoholic beverage, is required to obtain an import license or certificates before operating the business.  Foreign entrepreneurs in Thailand should consult with legal service providers or contact the Department of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce, for import or export licenses for certain products and services.