It’s Almost Time for Thailand!

It’s hard to believe we are just one day away from the start of our week-long trip to Thailand through the Chazen Institute. Our group of 24, including Professor Brian Lancaster and our three student leaders, will be convening tomorrow afternoon in Koh Samui to begin our study tour. My name is Austin Shaw and I am especially excited to be kicking off my second and final year at Columbia Business School as a member of this Thailand trip (fun fact, it’s my first time visiting Asia!). For the next week I will be the official social media blogger for our trip – I hope you’ll join me in following along! You can read about our trip on this blog and also follow us daily on the Columbia Chazen Instagram account @columbiachazen.

Our trip starts in Koh Samui, where we will be for the weekend. We will then fly to Bangkok on Monday morning and spend the rest of our trip in the capital city of Thailand.

Before our trip begins, I want to pose two major topics and questions that I hope to shed light on during the trip.

How are Thai retail, real estate, and hospitality corporations shaping economic and consumer trends, especially in regard to Thailand’s booming shopping mall culture?

During our trip I hope to learn more about how Thai real estate firms are working hand-in-hand with retail and hospitality companies to influence economic and consumer trends. For example, while the US has seen a dramatic decline in mall culture and occupancy rates, Thailand has witnessed the opposite effect in the last several years. According to Forbes, US mall vacancy rates today are at the highest level since 2012. In contrast, Bangkok’s retail occupancy rate is at an all-time high and is expected to stay above 97% (according to Retail in Asia Publication). Why and how is Thailand’s shopping mall culture so hot? Is e-commerce prevalent in Thailand and how is it affecting the retail industry? We will be seeking to answer these questions and more during our study tour, specifically during our visits to major retail and real estate development corporations next week in Bangkok (Central Retail Corporation, Central JD, Sansiri, and Central Pattana).

How do politics and religion influence everyday Thai culture and the economy?

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. For ten years between 2006 and 2016, Thailand’s political state saw major shakeups that have definitely influenced the economy today. In 2006, a bloodless coup occurred and the government was overthrown. Two years later, the Constitutional Court dissolved the governing parties based on electoral fraud. In 2014, another coup befell and the military took over and installed a general as prime minister. Since then, Thailand has been classified as a de facto military dictatorship. The king is the head of state and the military, and corruption is still an issue. Throughout the week we will learn more about the state of politics in Thailand and how it shapes the economy.

Thai culture is deeply influenced by religion. Nearly all Thai people that practice a religion are Buddhist. The belief system of Buddhism plays a significant role in Thai society and culture. At a high level, I have read that religion’s impact can be seen in the Thai people’s prioritization of respect, self-control, hospitality, and non-confrontation. I am curious to learn more during the week about how religion influences business as well.

Look out for my next blog post over the weekend!

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