Despite the country's economic trouble, baht appreciation and rising oil prices, Thailand's health and beauty industry remains in good shape, with exports expected to fetch not less than US$2.6 billion at the end of this year.
According to Siripol Yodmuangcharoen, the permanent secretary of the Commerce Ministry, the healthy and beauty business was expected to grow to at least $2.6 billion this year from $2.467 billion in 2006, boosted by strong demand and quality Thai products.
During the first nine months of this year, Thailand shipped health and beauty products worth of $1.614 billion. The major contributors were cosmetics, soap and skin-care products, which generated $1.186 billion, a rise of 65 percent over the same period last year.
Medical products also recorded strong growth of 24 percent, with shipments worth of $164 million and medical equipment generating $274 million, up 19.9 percent.
The exports excluded medical, hospital and spa services.
According to Mr Siripol, Thailand's medical and hospital services are expected to draw 1.54 million foreign patients this year and 1.69 million in 2008, compared with 1.4 million in 2006. The industry is forecast to generate 36 billion baht this year.
Last year, more than 3.6 million visitors received spa treatments in Thailand, 80 percent of whom are foreigners, generating income of more than $115 million .
Encouraged by the growth prospects, Benjawan Ratanaprayul, deputy director-general of the Export Promotion Department, said the department was studying a new export strategy to focus on the health and beauty industry and encourage more Thai spa operators to go overseas, particularly in target markets such as Japan, Europe and the United States.
Kulnuj Kusolvitya, managing director of Abajour Co (Ramburi spa products), said that despite the high demand abroad for spa products, competition was more intense as well.
She said the company had therefore shifted its strategy to sell more services such as consulting, training , and product and accessories development.
The company exports spa products to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, France, Italy, the UK and the US.
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