Leading Asian destinations concentrating on Asian medical tourists

 

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is promoting medical tourism packages in collaboration with local hospitals. Dr Amin Khan of MAS says,” We are expecting more than 200,000 passengers to Malaysia as medical tourists in 2012 due to the competitive pricing by Malaysian healthcare providers. It is essential that we partner with local hospitals to take advantage of this growing trend. Medical tourists come from Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh and the number is expected to increase by 16% year on year over the next three years.”

The first deal is between the airline’s travel subsidiary MAS Holidays and Tropicana Medical Centre (TMC). Francis Lim of TMC said, “For now MAS packages only provide executive health screening packages such as basic, wellness, elite and premier at attractive rates, but we may encourage them to introduce more medical services if there is a demand. Medical tourism is most popular for health screening, cosmetic surgery and follow-up treatment. The hospital is still new and not using its full capacity yet.” The 180-bed TMC will focus on patients from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Cambodia.

Singapore Tourism Board (STB) says that medical tourism income was $940 million in 2010, a 19 % year-on-year increase from 2009 despite lower numbers. Medical tourists came mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh. Medical tourists form about 30 % of Healthway Medical’s patient numbers and come mainly from Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and China. Health-care providers are increasingly zeroing in on the needs of specific foreigners. All the doctors, dentists and nurses at the Healthway Japanese Medical Centre in TripleOne Somerset are from Japan. The logic is that patients are more comfortable when there is no language barrier. Healthway is considering setting up a Korean clinic.

Thailand is going further, by encouraging internal health tourism. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is promoting medical tourism among domestic tourists. Thawatchai Arunyik of TAT says, "We have many destinations popular for alternative medicine. We are working to select key places and promote them. These destinations and their products are certified by the Public Health Ministry. Key target customers for domestic medical tourism should be families with average spending per head of 5000 baht per day, which is higher than the average spending of normal tourists of 4000 baht per day.”

This project is part of the newly launched hope, health, and happiness tourism campaign. The campaign seeks to encourage Thais to use tour operators and travel guides rather than arrange travel themselves, often using their own vehicles for long trips. The first tour group packages will be to alternative health destinations, and in early 2012 there will be domestic tourism packages. For reasons not explained, TAT is targeting the packages at locals, rather than foreigners.

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