I just returned from a vacation in Thailand which is a great place to visit. I already knew Thailand was famous for good deals on items like silk clothing, purses and jewelry but did not know that Europeans shop in Thailand for eyeglasses as well. As I strolled along the high street in Kata Noi, Phuket I noticed that optical stores were as prevalent as massage stations. Within the space of 15 minutes walk I went by at least seven Optical retailers all advertising very familiar brands, Varilux, Hoya, Zeiss lenses as well as Luxottica, Charmant and Safilo frames among many others. They were all busy with customers.
The next day I was on a ferry coming back from visiting a small island and I noticed that the other two tourists on the ferry were sporting some good looking eyewear so I complimented them and got into a discussion about their eyeglasses. They were both from Sweden and had purchased their eyewear in Thailand a day or so before with 24 hour turnaround. I asked them why they had bought their eyewear on vacation and they said it was due to better price,good service and quality product. They were particularly excited that they had been able to buy progressive, photochromic lenses and frames for around a total of $350. Apparently they would have paid at least triple this price in Sweden and would not have received 24 hour turnaround. It was most interesting to me that they had planned to go looking for new eyeglasses before they arrived. Thailand is particularly popular with Swedes and my new tourist friends told me that most of them know that it is a good place to buy eyeglasses mainly because of the lower prices but they are confident that service and quality is good as well.
What an opportunity! The USA has millions of overseas visitors every year, 38 million last year, and we have vision care products just as competitive as Thailand’s. This is a great sales opportunity for those optical retailers located in the top tourist destinations. Local hotels and tourist information places can be utilized for promotional distribution as that is where the tourists will be easy to reach. Maybe this is already happening but I haven’t noticed it?