Vietnamese stores and products are a rarity in Kuwait although the trade exchange between the two countries has been witnessing remarkable development in recent years. In 2022, Vietnam exported goods worth $500 million to Kuwait, including, but not limited to, textiles, agricultural products, electronics, and manufactured goods. When compared to other Southeast Asian products sold in the country, Vietnamese products in Kuwaiti supermarkets remain severely limited.

One Kuwaiti national has made it his mission to change this. Growing up, Louay Al-Qattan dreamed of traveling, and he learned about Vietnam largely through Western media. Although he claims that the way Vietnam is depicted in films is wildly different from reality, they prompted him to explore this charming country. “I loved Vietnam from my first visit, and I dreamed of bringing her to my own country with pride, love, and enthusiasm,” recounts Al-Qattan.

With high hopes to introduce the novelty of Vietnamese products in Kuwait, he opened a modest shop in the shopping area of Al-Zahraa Cooperative Society. As of 2018, Al Zahraa has a population of over 30,000 people with a cooperative to sell products and provide services to the population. Al-Qattan picked the cooperative association as the first place to promote quality Vietnamese products, thanks to its size and the presence of an area designated for merchandise promotion. His pavilion sells high-quality food and drinks and offers exceptional Vietnamese coffee, tea, and everything from chocolate to lotus jam to wooden sticks. Al-Qattan even took part in an event to promote his kiosk before Ramadan. Adorned with banners and conical hats shaped from palm leaves, the tiny pavilion is an interesting creation that displays Vietnam’s unique culture.

Apart from owning a tourism service company, Al-Qattan believes he has a lot to do for Vietnam. Thanks to his efforts, the Vietnamese Embassy and Commercial Office in Kuwait provided him with facilities to participate in meetings and get-togethers with Vietnamese businessmen and citizens in Kuwait. He took advantage of these opportunities to share his feelings about the beautiful country which holds a special place in his heart.

With the support of representative offices of Vietnam in Kuwait, Al-Qattan communicated with the coffee, chocolate, and wooden agarwood companies in Vietnam, He came across the opportunity when the companies displayed their products at the Kuwait Horeca 2023 exhibition, a significant event for the restaurant, hotel, and café industries in Kuwait. The presentation was held at the Kuwait International Exhibition Center from 6 to 8 March.

Al-Qattan said, “I was allowed to display the products of Vietnamese companies and decorate the pavilion with special materials. I also made a t-shirt for my children, with ‘Vietnam’ written on it. After school, they would bring a tray of Vietnamese coffee and wander around the commercial area. If someone wanted to try a new type of coffee, they would ask us about its origin.”

Owing to his commercial experiences in Kuwait, Al-Qattan pointed out the need to identify reliable information channels to push tourism and trade in Vietnam and introduce more Vietnamese products in Kuwait.

He added, “To promote the image of Vietnam, we must focus on people who have traveled to Vietnam. Even if they are not famous, they may have millions of followers, and they can contribute to spreading information because these followers have great confidence in them.”

“Only if the people working in the tourism sector talk about what Vietnam has to offer, will those who love Vietnam talk about the country with their sincere feelings, something Kuwaitis always love to listen to. Once we find a group of people who share our love for Vietnam, then promoting products is easy,” stated Al-Qattan, after emphasizing that feelings and love for a certain thing are what make all the difference.

He talked about how cooperative societies in Kuwait enjoyed a high competitive ability, as the same product could be expensive in one place and cheap in another. He said that Vietnamese products would help cooperatives attract more visitors, and through them, information would spread quickly. “I want to create a pavilion of Vietnamese goods, and only from there do I want to lay a foundation for the expansion of Vietnamese products in Kuwait in the future,” he stated.

Al- Qattan also talked about all the experiences and knowledge he had amassed through his travels, like when he learned of Vietnam’s expertise in growing and exporting coffee during his visit to the Son La Province along with Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

He also recalled how the image of the ‘cyclo’- a three-wheeled bicycle taxi in the streets of Hanoi left a strong impression on him and led to his goal of creating a pavilion of Vietnamese products in Kuwait with the image of the cyclo imprinted.

Louay Al-Qattan plans on returning to Vietnam in September and hopes to visit two destinations, HaLong Bay and Da Lat City, and considers it as yet another trip to promote Vietnamese products in Kuwait.

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