Destination Thailand

Long associated as a lush haven filled with history and culture, Thailand is adding another string to its impressive tourism bow. Mario Hajiloizis investigates.

Thailand has become a country synonymous with filling its numerous visitors with wonder, mainly because of its spectacular natural, cultural and historical attractions. Shopping perhaps, has rarely been the number one reason for pulling in tourists near and far, with the attractions mentioned above often taking centre stage. However, with mega-malls in the pipeline and a growing interest in local night markets adding to the cultural experience, the sector is increasingly growing in prominence.

“With bustling night markets, glitzy shopping malls and excellent bargains, shopping is a main attraction and truly lives up to a shopaholic’s expectations,” remarked director – Dubai and Middle East, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Chalermsak Suranant to TTG. He added: “Shopping malls in Bangkok are well known for their luxury shopping experiences. Also, the Thailand Grand Sale happening this June offers visitors from the Middle East a unique chance to enjoy discounts.”

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Bangkok, as Suranant mentioned, is renowned globally for its malls, boutiques and markets such as Siam Paragon, Panthip Plaza, MBK Center, Chatuchak Weekend Market, Khao San Road and Muang Meen Market to name just a few. “We recommend that tourists visit Asiatique Shopping Mall located in Bangkok’s Bang Kho Laem District,” added Suranant.“Overlooking the Chao Phraya River, the shopping mall is known not just for its shopping experience but also added cultural elements such as the Joe Louis Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre and the Calypso Cabaret show.”

Further enhancing the capital’s shopping portfolio is the mammoth EM District, located in the epicentre of Sukhumvit, comprising three world-class projects – The Emporium, The EmQuartier and The EmSphere, covering a total area of 650,000m2. High-end retail, business, office, residential, F&B, entertainment and events facilities have been incorporated across the development to ensure all visitors have something to enjoy.

Although Bangkok may be Thailand’s premier shopping destination at present, other regions such as Phuket, Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, Nakhon Ratchasima and Ubon Ratchathani are increasingly adding value to their shopping experiences with their malls and colourful local markets.

“Another recommended shopping experience would be Hua Hin with a lineup of shopping treats. It’s an excellent shopping spot for Thai handicrafts and contemporary art,” added Suranant.

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Providing the ideal base for their guests to explore and experience all that Thailand’s shopping landscape has to offer are various international as well as local hotel brands.

lebua Hotels & Resorts has within its arsenal two of Bangkok’s most luxurious addresses; Tower Club at lebua and lebua at State Tower. CEO, lebua Hotels & Resorts, Deepak Ohri believes there are a number of reasons why Thailand should be the number one shopping destination for MENA travellers: “The diversity of culture of the Thai people, combined with the richness of the natural environment, has led to the creation of a wide variety of handicrafts that always make great conversation pieces back home. [And] Thai people are friendly. This irresistible friendliness and openness are the essential keys to attracting, convincing and negotiating with visitors to buy their products.”

Knowing all there is to know about the local shopping and hospitality industry, Thai group Centara Hotels & Resorts boasts, in addition to its numerous properties across the country, shopping landmarks within its arsenal such as Central World Shopping Centre, Central Chidlom and Central Embassy. “All three shopping locations are easily accessible and all key international and local brands are available, along with various entertainment options and superb dining choices to make a great day out,” stated senior vice president – sales and marketing, Centara Hotels & Resorts, Chris Bailey.

Another hotel group with properties located across the country, including Bangkok, Buriram, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui and Phuket, and with many of their guests coming from the MENA region, is Best Western International which is well positioned to understand this particular clientele’s interest when it comes to shopping in Thailand. “Middle Eastern travellers – especially those from the GCC region – tend to have a higher average spend than visitors from many other regions, making them very desirable to these destinations,” remarked senior vice president – brand management, Best Western International, Ron Pohl.

“Thailand, and Bangkok especially, has emerged as Asia’s retail capital in recent years.”

Centrally located in the heart of Thailand’s capital city lies the 240-room fivestar Okura Prestige Bangkok. Echoing Pohl’s statements, director of sales and marketing, Okura Prestige Bangkok, Wuttipong Tanteraponchai added that due to MENA travellers’ spending power and Bangkok’s popularity amongst tourists from the region, shopping is a perfect fit during their stay. “Shopping is what excites so many visitors,” outlined Tanteraponchai. “From the floating, night and weekend markets to the high-end shopping malls, shopping in Thailand is an unforgettable experience. Bangkok is well-known throughout the world as a paradise for shoppers.”

It’s this ‘paradise’ that is increasingly making its mark, not only within the region but internationally also, highlighting a city that has a great deal of mega shopping malls with luxury brands in addition to locally-made products. Such options allow for a more complete shopping experience according to executive assistant manager, I/C sales and marketing, Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, Rubel Miah who stated: “Today, the city is home to some of Asia’s largest and most ostentatious shopping malls selling brand names and luxury goods, while Thai designers are now also producing unique and stylish high quality products.”

Thailand is swiftly gaining a permanent place in the hearts of the world’s serious shoppers.