Panels & Furniture Asia Sep/Oct 2018

September / October 2018 • Issue 5 • PANELS & FURNITURE ASIA 32 IN PERSON ON THAILAND’S WOODEN FURNITURE MARKET Currently, Thailand’s domestic furniture market is twice the size of its export market due to its booming tourism industry. According to Jirawat, annual wooden furniture exports are valued at approximately US$1.2 billion, while the local market is triple the size at around US$3 billion dollars. Jirawat offered his take: “For export, we are stable at roughly US$3 billion of wood products a year. We don’t have much increase because the Thais aren’t eager to export. They want to concentrate on the domestic market.” Thailand Furniture Market at a glance International tourist arrival numbers are indeed showing no sign of slowing, rising 8.8 per cent in 2017 to a record 35.38 million, according to Ministry of Tourism and Sports. “Thailand is a tourism hub, so we have a sizeable population. Actually, we have about 70 million people, the amount of tourist coming in is equivalent to half of our population. So, everything is for the tourists—hotels, restaurants, hospitality market, new houses and condominiums… Because of the booming local market, the Thai don’t care about export, they want to focus on the domestic market,” he said. Another reason for the lacklustre export market points towards the happy-go-lucky nature of the Thais. As an outsider, one can’t help but grin upon hearing Jirawat self-deprecatingly describe his countrymen as more “relaxed, laisse faire, calm,…Thai style”, yet he did not present such trait as weakness, it is simply about understanding the market and playing according to strengths. The more laid-back Thai culture is probably the reason why creativity is allowed to truly flourish and Thai furniture designers and craftsmen are well-known for their modern and functional designs. And Jirawat knew that too well, “The strength of Thai