The UAE has always had an open door policy as its economic sector is heavily reliant upon international trade, tourism, and trade fairs, which has been affected by the global COVID pandemic.
Panot Punyahotra, Director of Thai Trade Center, Dubai, believes the key drivers to opening up the country are: government support for business during the pandemic; proactive screening of COVID cases; and, most importantly, efficient vaccination program. The UAE is one of the countries with highest vaccination rate in the world.
The UAE is Thailand’s largest export market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, followed by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Israel.
“People are choosing more healthy products like organics and plant-based food” says Punyahotra. “This presents a good opportunity for Thai exporters as Thailand is recognized as a leading food exporting country.”
Currently, the Thai Trade Centre, Dubai is trying to bring Thai E-Commerce platforms like Tarad.com, Shopee and Lazada to expand their services to the MENA region by utilizing Dubai CommerCity which is a free zone dedicated to online business.
UAE has a total population of approximately 10 million people divided into many groups such as the Emiratis and the Arabs, the South Asians, the Westerners and other Asian like the Filipinos.
“If an exporter is interested in the UAE market, they must first identify their main target group,” Punyahotra says. “Then they can choose the right distribution channel to reach their targeted consumers. In the UAE, each supermarket has its main targeted customers”
Punyahotra says that people in the UAE trust the quality of Thai products. He believes there is great potential for food products, in particular canned fish, canned fruit and vegetable, organic and plant-based food, as well as pet food. Other potential products include gold and silver jewelry, auto parts, and cosmetics including spa products.
However, there are some challenges that exporters must overcome.
“You must find a reliable and trustworthy partner, and follow the regulations,” he says. “For example, there is a strict regulation to control the certification of Halal foods.”
During the pandemic which the international travelling is restricted, Thai Trade Centre, Dubai is promoting two main activities; Online Business Matching (OBM) linking Thai Exporters and buyers in UAE through online meeting and the Mirror-Mirror activity which bring OBM to selected trade fairs. In addition to the mentioned activities, TTC Dubai also organizes in-store promotion with various supermarkets in the region.
Punyahotra also mentions about the Dubai World Expo which will be held in Dubai from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022.
“It will be the first ever World Expo in the MENA, Africa and South Asia regions, with more than 15 million visitors from around the world expected,” he says. “Thai Pavilion in this coming World Expo Dubai will be the largest ever Thai Pavilion in the World Expo and during that time, DITP will organize Top Thai Brands Exhibition features 70 Thai exporters”
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Words by Natthinee Ratanaprasidhi