Thailand medical tourism: medical travel industry warns of complacency


Thailand is still the leading global medical tourism destination by numbers but the travel trade is concerned that low prices and high numbers may not be the most profitable path.

They are concerned that hospitals and agents are in danger of becoming complacent and not thinking ahead on how to keep attracting high numbers in the future without seeing profit margins gradually eroding to keep and gain business.

The medical travel trade is calling on Thailand to improve its medical tourism by adding new services and maintaining its high treatment standards.

A recent Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) survey researched the views of 22 medical travel agents from the US, Australia, the Middle East and Europe. The agents said people are still looking for experienced doctors, advanced technologies and high-quality facilities and staff when they go to Thailand.

Medical tourism is a revenue generator for the travel trade and local hospitals. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, in 2012, 2.4 million foreign visitors went to Thailand for health services, generating revenue of 14 billion baht. TAT expects that number to rise to 3 million over the next three years, resulting in doubled revenue growth.

TAT plans to promote new advances in cosmetic surgery, fertility, anti-ageing and cell therapy. Markets such as Australia, the Middle East, Russia and the US are targets.

According to TAT, 600,000 high-income Chinese travelled to Switzerland and Singapore last year for anti-ageing and cell treatments. Where those figures come from is unclear as they are much higher than any other known figures for outbound Chinese medical tourism.

But the logic of TAT is correct in that Chinese customers are one of the biggest and highest spending markets this year, so TAT and some local medical travel agents are focusing on that market.



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