Thailand

Thailand, known as the 'land of smiles', is renowned for its welcoming, open culture. Its location in the heart of Asia, low cost of living and government incentives make it a desirable destination for business. A skilled workforce and strong manufacturing base add to its attraction.

Covid-19 latest information

This guide is an accurate reflection of the pre-Covid-19 business environment in Thailand. Please note that due to the current situation, some circumstances may have changed in this country. Figures and data in the guide were last updated in August 2020.

 

Welcome to Thailand

As the country’s first commercial bank, HSBC’s history in Thailand stretches back over 13 decades. Today, HSBC Thailand offers banking services to businesses, combining in-depth local knowledge with global expertise. That means we’re well positioned to help you take advantage of the many opportunities Thailand can offer.

Continued investment in Thailand’s infrastructure has seen it develop world-class transport links both internationally and domestically. These include enhanced shipping capacity, improved air transport links and capacity, and high-speed rail links. These will boost trade both throughout Thailand and with the economic powerhouses of India and China, presenting opportunities for further growth. HSBC provides a comprehensive range of cross-border and financial services to suit both your personal and business needs, whether you are moving to the region, working in the area, or investing or doing business in Thailand.

Welcome to Thailand – I look forward to doing business with you.

Kelvin Tan Chief Executive Officer, HSBC Thailand

HSBC Building, 968 Rama IV Road, Silom, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500

Essentials

Population
67 million1
Size
513,120 sq km1
Main languages
Thai (English is widely spoken)
Capital city
Bangkok
Other major cities
Nonthaburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Chiang Mai
Currency
Thai Baht
Dialling code
+66
GDP
USD7,273.6 per capita2
Top exports
Machinery including, computers, nuclear reactors, electronic equipment, vehicles, rubbers, plastics, pearls, mineral fuels, meat, fish, seafood, organic chemicals, cereals
Top imports
Electrical/electronic equipment, mineral fuels and oils, machinery, nuclear reactors, pearls, precious stones, iron and steel, plastics, copper, optical / photo / medical apparatus
Unemployment rate
1.1%2
Corporation tax
20%3
Typical office hours
8am-5pm, Monday to Friday. Banks open 9.30am-3.30pm, Monday to Friday. Government offices are usually open between 8.30am-12pm, then 1pm-4.30pm, Monday to Friday
Time zone
UTC +7
Emergency numbers
191 (universal emergency number), 1669 (medical emergency), 199 (fire department), 1155 (tourist police), 1193 (highway police)

1 World Population Review, 2020
2 Trading Economics, 2020
3 PwC, 2019

Thailand: At the heart of growing economies

  • Development success story

    Thailand has undergone a remarkable transformation, growing from a low-income economy to an upper-income economy in the space of a generation. This development is the result of consistent, strong average annual growth – 7.5% between 1960 and 1996 and 5% between 1999 and 2005 – which has created jobs and helped lift people out of poverty.

  • Biting the bullet

    Thailand is in the midst of an ambitious railway infrastructure project that will bring bullet trains within the next five years. The aim is to connect Thailand’s three major airports and to improve access to the country’s Eastern Economic Corridor, where roughly 80% of foreign investment in Thailand takes place.

  • Competitive economy

    In 2019, Thailand moved up five places in the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking to secure 25th place. This jump into the top 25 most competitive economies in the world is driven by an increase in foreign direct investment and productivity.

  • At the crossroads of Asia

    Thailand sits at the crossroads of Asia – a growing economic market with huge potential. As a founding member of ASEAN and instrumental in the development of the ASEAN Free Trade Area, the country is well placed to offer trade opportunities with Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and India, among other Asian nations.

  • Welcoming to international businesses

    Long established business-friendly laws and liberal free trade policies make Thailand an attractive environment for foreign investment. This is supported by a variety of tax incentives and import duty exemptions offered by the Thailand Board of Investment.

Ranked

# 21

for ease of doing business (in a survey of 190 measured economies by The World Bank)

Country profile

In Thailand, lush tropical beaches and ancient ruins sit in stark contrast to the futuristic ultra-urban landscape of Bangkok. A growing tourist destination due to its renowned natural beauty, the country is also recognised for its celebrated cuisine.

Ideally situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand provides a strategic business location, with easy access to many Asian nations, including Cambodia, Vietnam, China and India. Thailand’s strategic position is strengthened by an open economy, liberal trade and economic policies as well as participation in many free trade agreements, including the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA). Thailand is also embracing the Belt and Road Initiative to drive closer cooperation with China. Meanwhile, government investment in the Eastern Economic Corridor and in key industries through its Thailand 4.0 policy offers significant and sustainable economic growth potential.

Thailand was officially known as Siam until 1939. The independent country of Siam was ruled by a monarchy until 1932.

Since 1960, Thailand has achieved a meteoric rise from a low-income to an upper income country – but plans for improvement don’t stop there. In 2017, the government instituted a 20-year National Strategy for reaching developed country status.

Broad reforms are being enacted to achieve this goal that will address economic stability, human capital, equal economic opportunities, sustainability, competitiveness and more.

Read on to discover more about the dos and don’ts of doing business in Thailand and how trading in or with the country could help boost the future growth of your business.

5 reasons to do business in Thailand 1

  1. Healthy economy
    As Southeast Asia’s second largest economy, Thailand has enjoyed consistent growth thanks to strong industrial and agricultural exports.
  2. Varied manufacturing capabilities
    Thailand’s strong manufacturing sector produces a wide variety of products, exporting everything from furniture and toys to jewellery.
  3. Well-educated workforce
    Literacy rates in Thailand stand at about 92.9% and most university-educated Thais speak business English, while the number of graduates learning Chinese, Japanese, German or French is increasing.
  4. Extensive transportation network
    The country has six international airports, three major commercial seaports and the most extensive highway transportation network in the entirety of Southeast Asia.
  5. Digital infrastructure
    Under its National Digital Economy Master Plan, Thailand has invested heavily in digital infrastructure. Among other projects, the country has created a broadband network that links nearly 75,000 villages and provided roughly 25,000 villages with free WiFi hotspots.


5 key challenges1

  1. 1

    Weak IP protections

    Thailand is seen as having weak intellectual property protections – ranking 42nd out of 50 countries on the 2019 U.S. Chamber International IP Index.

  2. 2

    Construction permits

    Obtaining construction permits can be a challenge. Expect the entire process to take roughly 113 days from start to finish.

  3. 3

    Changing demographics

    The makeup of Thailand's population is changing, with about 20% of the population over the age of 60. This is projected to climb to 30% by 2050.

  4. 4

    Vulnerable to climate change

    Addressing climate change will be a major challenge for Thailand in the coming years, especially as the rainy season becomes more erratic, disrupting agricultural production. Additionally, Bangkok, a city of canals, is sinking by up to two centimetres a year.

  5. 5

    Widening gap

    The disparity between urban and rural areas is widening in Thailand, particularly when it comes to things like income, education and productivity levels.

1World Bank Group, 2019