Thailand

Market overview

Thailand has begun to ease restrictions on movement and gatherings, allowing restaurants, malls, hair salons and open-air markets to re-open, provided that social distancing is maintained and subject to proprietors carrying out temperature checks.

Thailand's gradual improving rate of new infections enabled the Thai government to loosen restrictions while tightening movement tracking requirements. Shoppers must use the 'Thai Chana' app on their mobile phones to check-in and check-out of shops. The app has been created to collect visitor records in shops and also provide details such as opening hours and visitor limits among others. Shops must also register with Thai Chana.

Thailand's civil aviation authority has extended the ban on incoming international flights to the end of June.

Video insights

Export support
Video
10:31
Last updated: 18 May 2020
COVID-19 Market Realities: Thailand overview, 7 May

NZTE Beachhead Advisor, Paul Dibbayawan, and NZTE BDM, Jane Tantakhom, spoke with NZTE Trade Commissioner Ryan Freer about the situation in Thailand.

Read more

Economy and trade

The Thai economy is forecast to shrink by 4.8% by Asian Development Bank (ADB), 5.6% by Siam Commercial Bank's Economic Intelligence Center (EIC) and 5% by Standard Chartered Bank (Thai), heading for its deepest contraction since the financial meltdown of 1998. The IMF forecasts Thailand's GDP to contract by 6.7% in 2020.

The Federation of Thai Industry believes Thailand's exports will contract between 5% and 10% in 2020 and that the rate of inflation will drop to –1.5%. GDP growth will reduce but how much so will depend on the value and effectiveness of the Government's support package.

Thailand's tourism-reliant economy is expected to feel severe economic impacts from the drop in travel from Europe and China, and the lasting effects of the drop in world travel overall. Tourism accounts for 15.5% of total employment in Thailand, and about 20% of Thailand's GDP, so Thailand is particularly reliant on a recovery in China and inbound Chinese tourists. Roughly 16 million of Thailand's 40 million tourists (40%) are from China.

Thailand reported that foreign tourist arrivals plunged 76.4% in March from a year earlier, after a 42.8% drop in the previous month. Hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, tourism receipts also fell by 77.6% to 39.5 billion baht (US$1.22 billion) year-on-year.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand warns the number of foreign tourists in Thailand may plunge as much as 25.8 million to 14 million this year, the lowest level in 14 years, as the pandemic hits global travel.

Thailand will benefit as importers seek to diversify contract manufacturing options away from China to manage supply side risk.

The country's six largest commercial banks have passed on cost savings after the Bank of Thailand lowered its required contribution to the Financial Institutions Development Fund (FIDF), trimming prime lending rates by 40 basis points to soften the coronavirus impact on debtors.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce estimates seven million jobs have been lost in Thailand already due to impacts of COVID-19 and the figure will hit ten million if restrictions drag on to the end of 2020. Thailand has a workforce of approximately 38 million.

Supply chain, logistics & freight

Exports may continue but may face challenges with limited freight schedules and delays at Thai customs control.

Thai ports for ocean cargo are operating as normal, while air freight capacity has decreased dramatically due to international flight cancellations from many airlines.

Airfreight remains limited. The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has extended the ban on passenger flights to Thailand until the end of June.

Thai Airways has suspended flights between Thailand and New Zealand until June. This will impact access for chilled products, fresh produce (including persimmon) and other fresh food cargo.

Singapore Airlines represents an option for New Zealand products to be air freighted to Thailand, via Singapore. Freight costs may be more expensive than usual.

One retailer that directly imports fresh products via airfreight will hold orders from New Zealand until June.

Imports may incur delays and costs may be significantly above the standard rate.

Government support

On 31 May, the Thai parliament approved a near US$60 billion stimulus package, from which about US$17.3 billion will be given as aid to farmers and informal workers such as street vendors and those employed in massage parlours and bars who have seen their work dry up. It is the biggest-ever cash injection to the Thai economy

The Thai Cabinet previously approved a third package of economic stimulus valued at THB 1.9 trillion (NZ$95 billion) on 7 April.

The Finance Ministry is to borrow up to THB 1 trillion (NZ$50 billion), of which THB 600 billion (NZ$30 billion) will be used for cash handouts and public health and THB 400 billion (NZ$20 billion) will be spent on economic recovery measures.

Other support policies include extending the deadline for income tax payments, access to training courses for additional skills to provide extra income, and income tax exemptions for those whose work is considered high-risk for COVID-19 infection.

The Ministry of Industry is allocating approximately THB10 billion (NZ$500 million) to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The budget will be spent in the following key areas:

  • A marketing and management project run by the Department of Industrial Promotion

  • THB3.4 billion will be spent on debt moratoriums, boosting liquidity and relaxing interest rates, while THB2.4 billion will be earmarked on expanding and improving business.

  • Providing services and reducing the cost burden on SMEs such as waiving annual fees for factories and standard service fees.

Thai Airways International, a listed state-owned enterprise, is dangerously close to becoming the world's first national flag carrier to go bankrupt, according to international reports. The airline has asked the Thai Government to guarantee a NZ$2.2 billion bridging loan.

Travel

Do not travel overseas at this time. Due to the difficulty travellers are experiencing returning home, New Zealanders overseas need to take steps to stay safely where they are and shelter in place.

Although some restrictions on domestic travel and business closures are being lifted, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) has extended its international inbound flight ban to the end of June, except repatriation flights and some others.

Thai Airways has also suspended passenger flights between Thailand and New Zealand until June.

Thailand travel advisory: Safetravel.govt.nz

Advice to exporters

Most imported products from New Zealand are in niche and premium segments. Their core Thai consumer is in a higher income bracket that is more insulated from economic crisis and less price sensitive. New Zealand brands need to ensure they are on this consumer group's radar, and that consumers are aware of, recognise and understand their product benefits. As much as possible, consumers will seek to maintain their lifestyle, and if their offline experience is limited, they will look for online brand experiences.

For New Zealand companies that are yet to enter the Thai market, there is a potential opportunity to penetrate into Thailand if their products can substitute for goods from the US, Europe, China or Japan which are struggling to supply. An opportunity exists to introduce New Zealand products due to supply shortages from countries that are experiencing shutdowns.

For New Zealand companies that already have products in Thailand, it is opportune to talk with local distributors about options to promote their products and access new channels during this period, due to the expectation of supply constraints from some products from the US, Europe, China or Japan.

The COVID-19 crisis is an opportune time to invest in consumer insights. It is dangerous to make assumptions on what could happen and how consumers may behave once the crisis ends. Instead, brands and companies should pay attention and invest in gaining consumer insight. Companies doing well now are those who can understand their customers and respond accordingly, making brands more relevant and useful to consumers.

Tradeshow and event information

Numerous international tradeshows and events are being postponed or cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Make sure you proactively check with organisers for any tradeshow or event you're scheduled to attend – conditions and regulations are changing rapidly overseas, and events may be postponed or cancelled at short notice.

Below is the status of major Thailand tradeshows and events that NZTE's teams are aware of.

If you have questions about an event not listed here, please contact the organisers in the first instance or get in touch with NZTE for further advice.

  • THAIFEX – Anuga Asia 26-30 May, 2020 is rescheduled to 22 – 26 September, 2020.

  • PET EXPO THAILAND 2020 21 – 24 May, 2020 is rescheduled to 3 – 6 September, 2020.

  • THAILAND RETAIL, FOOD & HOSPITALITY SERVICES – TRAFS 16-19 July, 2020 is rescheduled to 14 – 17 October, 2020

FAQ

Can I fly to Thailand?

Do not travel overseas at this time. Due to the difficulty travellers are experiencing returning home, New Zealanders overseas need to take steps to stay safely where they are and shelter in place.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) has extended its inbound flight ban to the end of June, except repatriation flights and some others for COVID-19 control.

Can I still export to Thailand?

Exports may continue but may face challenges with limited freight schedules and delays at Thai Customs.

There currently exists no direct airfreight access as Thai Airways International has suspended flights from Auckland to Bangkok until June.

Singapore Airlines is still operating, however freight costs may be more expensive than usual.

Can I still import from Thailand?

Imports may continue but may face challenges with limited freight schedules.

Airfreight remains limited. The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has extended the ban on passenger flights to Thailand until the end of June, while Thai Airways has suspended flights between Thailand and New Zealand until June. This will impact access for chilled products, fresh produce (including persimmon) and other fresh food cargo.

Singapore Airlines is still operating, however freight costs will be more expensive than usual.

Is freight allowed in at the border?

Yes, but delays may occur and costs may be significantly above the standard rate.

Is Thailand in lockdown?

The Thai Government movement restrictions have been relaxed from 18 May, allowing malls to reopen subject to customer tracking procedures. However, a curfew is still in place from 11pm, and business must close by 8pm to give all shoppers and workers time to be home before the curfew starts. The Thai aviation authority has extended the ban on international passenger flights until the end of June.


Sector insights

As is to be expected, numerous sectors have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you'll find information on any COVID-19 effects across important sectors and industries in Thailand.

Dairy

Thai dairy manufacturers are still operating. However, production output has reduced due to social distancing measures implemented to protect production line workers, meaning manufacturers are buying less raw milk and imported dairy ingredients. This is negatively impacting local farmers as well as reducing demand for imported dairy products. Thai farmers who cannot sell milk to dairy manufacturers have no alternative but to throw it away.

Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies

Covid19.govt.nz
COVID-19 helpline for businesses
Business.govt.nz
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
New Zealand Export Credit (NZEC)
MFAT Export Helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Callaghan Innovation
Immigration
Ministry of Health
WorkSafe New Zealand

Global agencies

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.