Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Tue June 23 2015

Thailand's Countrywide Sale Aims to Draw in Shopping-Hungry Tourists

Destination & Tourism | James Ruggia | June 23, 2015

Thailand's Countrywide Sale Aims to Draw in Shopping-Hungry Tourists

Folk crafts are part of Thailand’s offerings along with silk, clothing and gemstones, as seen in this shop located in Chiang Mai (photo by James Ruggia)

Shopping has always been one of the prime motives for American travel to Asia. Though it’s taken a back seat to the continent’s cultural and natural beauties in recent years, it’s still a major driving force. According to a poll done last year on behalf of ITB Berlin by IPK International, shopping tours play an important part for one in three holidays spent abroad for U.S. tourists. This number — about 30 percent — actually placed American travelers last among other countries when it came to shopping as a priority, but it’s still a significant segment of visitors.

Shopping was found to be important for 50 percent of all international tourists visiting major cities, and to 80 percent of Asian tourists.

The Global Shopping Index annually rates cities in the Asia-Pacific area (and Europe) for the quality of their shopping. This year the top 10 are rated in order as Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Sydney, Bangkok, Tokyo, Seoul, and Delhi. Affordability is just one of the criteria along with the number of shops, convenience, hotels, transport, culture, and climate.

Last year, Frommers named Bangkok one of the 11 best destinations in the world for shopping by the renowned travel website, with the city’s range of markets and malls being singled out for praise. In Bangkok and other Thai cities, shopping is a major activity for visitors.

The Amazing Thailand Grand Sale is running through Aug. 15 and this year, in order to drive home its Discover Thainess campaign, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will reward shoppers wearing traditional Thai dress extra discounts and perks in many participating stores. Visa and some of Thailand’s biggest shops and brands are helping the TAT to promote the annual sale, which takes place in seven of the country’s most popular destinations: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hat Yai, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Udon Thani.

The promotion began in 1998 and has grown now to include some 15,000 shops in 110 malls and shopping centers. Participating Thai merchants offer discounts of between 5 and 80 percent during the sale. Certain restaurants and spas are also offering discounts. Participating venues in the sale can be easily found by looking for the “Red Bag” symbol displayed in shops.

Southeast Asian hotels are emulating some of the “shopping concierge” innovations being offered most famously in Paris. Banyan Tree Bangkok, for instance, offers personalized, expert advice to ensure the best shopping experiences across Thailand from the Banyan Tree Bangkok, Banyan Tree Phuket, and Banyan Tree Samui. The concierges at these resorts are trained to provide insider knowledge on the best local shops and markets. The resorts on property Banyan Tree Galleries feature a full spectrum of Thai specialties from silks to gemstones.

Kuala Lumpur’s Mandarin Oriental is making shopping more convenient with a concierge service (photo courtesy of Mandarin Oriental)

The Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur is running a Personal Shopper Experience Program that includes a stay at the hotel with personal shopping services and gift-with-purchase offers at the Malaysian capital’s two premier malls, Suria KLCC and Pavilion Kuala Lumpur. Participating guests make their request to the concierge who arranges an appointment with the chosen boutique. A personal shopper will meet guests at the hotel for visits to Suria KLCC. For trips to the Pavilion, guests are chauffeur-driven to and from the mall where they are met by a personal shopper who escorts them to the boutique.

Guests can have their purchased items delivered to the hotel by the personal shopper. Private viewings can be arranged for guests either at the store or in the comfort of their hotel room. Fees are applicable for private viewings at the store. Participating brands include internationally renowned luxury retailers Burberry, Bvlgari, Giuseppe Zanotti, Tory Burch, Vertu, Swiss Watch Gallery, Rolex, and Royal Selangor.

Don’t overlook shopping when you’re planning your trip, according to IPK International it was found to be popular across all demographics regardless of age, education and wealth. It enjoyed equal popularity among people with high travel expenses and those with less costs. The only difference was that female holidaymakers did more shopping than men. 

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