The Thai Pavilion at the World Expo 2020 in Dubai ranks among the top five most visited attractions, drawing in more than 100,000 attendees thus far with an immersive experience that highlights Thailand’s digital mobility, trade opportunities and beautiful travel destinations.
The World Expo 2020 was rescheduled after being postponed last year due to the pandemic, but the organisers maintained the original name for marketing and branding purposes.
The event, which spans 438 hectares and resembles a mirage in the middle of the desert, has three thematic districts: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.
About 5 million people have visited the expo since the beginning of October.
Located in the Mobility district, the Thai Pavilion showcases the theme of “Mobility for the Future” with Thailand’s growing development in cutting-edge innovation, the bio-, circular, green economic model, and the Eastern Economic Corridor — a special economic zone under the Thailand 4.0 plan.
The main highlight of the pavilion is a 360-degree immersive adventure that takes visitors on an animated drone flight with two mascots — Rak and Mali. It envisages the future of Thailand’s digital infrastructure, advanced transportation and 5G connectivity.
Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, Thailand’s digital economy and society minister, who led the press team through the pavilion on Thailand’s National Day (Dec 5), was pleased with all the attention from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and visitors to the expo.
“The attendance goal for the entire expo is 25 million visitors by the end of March next year. So far there have been 500,000 visitors, and the Thai Pavilion welcomed a good 10% of that,” he said.
“This is an accomplishment for us as there are 192 pavilions. It shows the strong interest the UAE and others have in us, in a variety of areas such as medical tourism, investment, trade and especially oil and gas.”
To mark Thailand’s National Day, there was a Thai parade starting from the pavilion to the main stage of the expo, where Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign trade, delivered a speech and raised his country’s flag alongside the Thai flag, hoisted by Mr Chaiwut.
“As UAE hosts World Expo 2020 in Dubai — which is the first time for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region — we hope to build on exciting partnerships between our two countries, which have enjoyed a strong relationship in trade, tourism and the medical sector,” said Mr Al Zeyoudi.
“The UAE is proud to be among Thailand’s top 20 partners in the Middle East and a gateway for Thai products to enter our local and regional markets.”
Thai Trade Center-Dubai, a government agency under the Commerce Ministry, said bilateral trade between Thailand and the UAE in the first 10 months of 2021 amounted to 311 billion baht, an increase of 62% compared with the same period last year.
Thai ambassador to the UAE Waravuth Pouapinya told the Bangkok Post car parts and air conditioners are Thailand’s leading exports to the UAE, but he hopes agriculture and poultry products will soon gain popularity there as food production is an area Thailand has long championed.
Mr Waravuth said Charoen Pokphand Foods has made significant progress in obtaining halal food certification in the UAE.
LIQUID GOLD EXPLORATION
Rich natural resources, especially oil, is one of many reasons the UAE is attractive to investors.
PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP), Thailand’s national oil and gas explorer, recently expanded its presence and production in the UAE from three sites to four following a 25% stake in an onshore gas field in the Emirate of Sharjah.
Montri Rawanchaikul, president and chief executive of PTTEP, who attended Thailand National Day stressed the importance of the strong ties the country has fostered with the UAE over the past 45 years.
He said it is good for both trade and diplomacy that oil and gas will remain “transitory” energy sources.
“PTTEP is here today because of the great relationship between our two countries. Coupled with the vision, capabilities and technological advancement the Emirati leaders possess, their oil production is projected to increase from 3.8 million barrels a day to 5 million barrels by the end of this decade,” said Mr Montri.
“We see great investment and partnership opportunities in the UAE.”
The company currently invests in three offshore projects in Abu Dhabi through a partnership with Italy’s Eni. All are in the exploration phase.
MEDICAL TOURISM BOOM
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, about 45,000 visitors out of a total of 130,000 arrivals from the UAE to Thailand in 2019 did so for medical purposes, with each person spending around 120,000 baht.
The burgeoning medical tourism sector generated an impressive 5.4 billion baht prior to the pandemic.
Aqueel Bokisha, a speaker on UAE-Thailand medical tourism and a former Bangkok Dusit Medical Services representative, said despite state-of-the-art technology available at more than 400 public and private hospitals in the UAE, the majority of Emiratis still prefer to travel to Thailand for treatment because of quick accessibility to premium care and affordability.
“Emiratis have sufficient income to travel and it’s easy to reach Thailand from here. They can be seen by good doctors very quickly. Then they have a nice vacation, exploring the country,” he said.
“There is not a long medical waiting list in Thailand at private hospitals, where most Emiratis go. For instance, if a patient wants to do an ultrasound in the UAE, it would be a 10-to-15 day waiting period. An MRI is even longer.”
During July and August, some hospitals in Thailand have more than 100 Arabic translators.
According to Mr Bokisha, these translators are mostly Thai Muslims from the southern part of the country who studied in the Middle East and gained effective language skills during their time overseas.
Thailand’s position as a leading medical hub within Asia was bolstered when the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) revealed some news at World Expo 2020. The agency said the country is submitting a bid to the Bureau International des Expositions in France to host a medical expo in 2028 in Phuket.
Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, president of TCEB, told the Bangkok Post in Dubai that Thailand faces intense competition from the US, which plans to host the medical expo in Minneapolis, where the highly regarded Mayo Clinic is located.