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A spectacular Thai festival was staged at the Gulf Convention Centre & Spa to highlight and grow bilateral investment between Thailand and Bahrain and was visited by His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain.
More than 120 representatives from 70 Thai fashion, food, technology, and spa as well as cosmetics companies congregated at the SME ONE Fest, held at the property last Wednesday and Thursday.
The event gave local businessmen an opportunity to network with potential Thai partners while their overseas counterparts explored expanding their dealings to Bahrain and the Middle East.
Sudsiam Suriyod, president of the Thai Club said: “The Thai community in Bahrain is very strong and it’s great to see more businesses set up shop and grow with Bahrain in the near future. This festival, organised in collaboration with Siam Pavilion Services and its success is a hallmark of what is to come, especially with the Thai Mart project.”
On show were Thai clothing, costume jewellery, organic and preserved produce as well as cutting edge health and skincare technologies. For most of these businesses, it was their first time in Bahrain and while there were individual items for sale, most of these businesses were hoping to find partners and suppliers to expand their reach beyond Thailand.
Kate Kunyakorn Thanaratphakdee was showing off ‘Seasoning’, her limited collections of handcrafted Thai costume jewellery and said: “I am hoping to find a distributor for my collections. My business is young but since the market in Thailand is saturated, I want to explore options overseas. Bahrain has been quite hospitable and I have gotten a lot of interest in my product; one person said he finds the designs unique while a lady really liked the lightweight aspect, so I am hoping to see my designs in store soon.”
The event also featured fashion shows as well as a slew of other entertainment and is intended to build hype for the coming ThaiMart project, a complete Thai shopping mall covering a 6,700sqm space which is on target to be completed by the end of the year in the Diyar-Al-Muharraq region.
The emcee for the show, Dr Pacapol Anurit, pictured top left, who is an Associate Professor at Shinawatra University, said: “The event has been great and we are grateful to the organising committee. We were expecting more people to attend and perhaps more opportunities to engage for the first-timers here, but the cosmetics section has attracted a lot of interest and we hope to continue that at the Health and Wellness fair which ends today. There are some big organisations behind that who have invested quite a bit to be here, so we are anticipating bigger crowds then.”
The cosmetics area was the most populated during the GulfWeekly’s visit, especially those offering cutting-edge beauty treatments like Slim Concept, a slimming and beauty centre that was showing off its latest stem cell therapy tools. It is said to reduce wrinkling and rejuvenate the face without requiring surgery.
Ariyapong “Alex Slim” Techarojkul added: “We have been running eight locations in Thailand and we are exploring locations in Bahrain. Our product shows instant results which the visitors here love. We have been successful for the last 10 years in Thailand, building a trustworthy brand that people can work with. Then when the Thai embassy and Thai club here contacted us, we saw it as a great opportunity to bring a fantastic product as well as our services to the Middle East market.”
Hilde Matthyzen, a Belgian citizen who owns vacation property on Reef Island, is one of Alex’s potential clients and has been looking for a non-invasive way to ‘lift’ her face. Intrigued by Slim Concept, she said: “I want to look into this more. I’ll be reaching out to my friend who is a plastic surgeon and asking about how safe this is, but if they have been around for so long, it should be okay. I want to see if there are more products like this. It is really cool to see all these different aspects of Thai and Bangkok’s business industry under one roof.”
Another industry that had its own section and was joined by local Thai industry veterans was the food and culinary industry. Famous Thai restaurants like Honey Restaurant provided the fresh cooked food, while Joy Napapath Keeratinapath provided platters of fresh fruit from across Thailand.
She hopes to export tropical fruits like dragon fruit, mangosteen and rambutan to the Middle East. These fruits are usually difficult to ship because of their short shelf life but she intends to market them to upper middle class families, giving her more of a margin to explore quick shipping alternatives.
She said: “The event has been quite successful. I found customers from all over the Middle East, including Dubai and Saudi Arabia. Since these are not seen as often in the region, it has garnered a lot of interest. I am hoping to visit the ThaiMart site tomorrow to see possible locations. Hopefully, when it opens, we will have a store there, which will be our first one outside of Thailand and a spot where we can import our fruit.”
According to the United Nations Comtrade Database, as reported by Thailand, imports and exports between the two countries totalled USD415.46m in 2018.
Thai Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain said: “We are very happy with the success of the festival. This started last October with a small group of maybe 15 businessmen who came on a scouting trip to Bahrain to find new opportunities. Based on their success, this year we were able to bring 70 businesses and provide them with the tools to expand. Bahrain has been very open, arranging business matching and supporting our initiatives. This has perhaps been our biggest festival in Bahrain in terms of exhibitors.”
To commemorate and further this relationship, Thai Ambassador Thanis Na Songkhla met Tamkeen chief executive Dr Ebrahim Janahi to discuss collaboration between the two countries, with Dr Janahi and OSMEP director general Suwanchai Lohawatanakul signing an MoU to promote entrepreneurial and start-up ecosystems in the two countries.
The Thai bonanza has continued at the Health and Wellness Expo, which will carry on until today. Check it out to learn more about Thailand’s growing medical tourism industry!