Vietnam wants to Promote Medical Tourism

The country has 125 beaches and ranks 27th out of 156 countries in terms of beautiful beaches, Vu Khac Chuong, rector of the Sai Gon College of Art, Culture and Tourism said at a conference on modern tourism models. He said the country also has more than 40,000 cultural relics and natural attractions and 30 national parks.

Although the Government has some strategies to improve tourism, the results have been meagre in comparison with the potential, he said.

Global integration and co-operation have created enormous opportunities as well as challenges for tourism development, he said.

Developing modern tourism models is crucial to boosting the country’s tourism, he said.

Educational tourism, medical tourism, culinary tourism and family tourism have much potential in Viet Nam, he said.

Mass tourism has negatively affected the natural environment and culture, he said.

With climate change and environmental awareness, sustainable tourism and slow travel alternatives have emerged to provide tourists with more authentic experiences.

Local authorities should co-ordinate with the Government, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the National Association of Tourism to work on the most suitable tourism forms for their place, he said.

Enterprises and tourism companies should focus on developing human resources, action programmes and facilities for developing appropriate forms of tourism.

Le Anh Tuan of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s education department said that many types of tourism are being developed to meet the demand of the market and gradually becoming popular in the world and Viet Nam.

In Viet Nam some new tourism forms have attracted public interest in recent years, including charity tourism, healthcare tourism, cuisine tourism and car, motorcycle or independent tourism.

A suitable legal framework should be created to manage new types of tourism and ensure sustainable development of the tourism sector, Tuan said.

Modern forms of tourism seek to exploit unique resources to keep up with contemporary social trends and needs, according to Duong Van Sau of the Ha Noi Culture University’s culture tourism faculty.

The new forms of tourism need high-quality human resources for meeting the needs of customers, Nguyen Van Luu, a member of the National Tourism Consulting Commission, said.

Human resources in the tourism industry are recognised as high quality if they have good knowledge, skills and a positive attitude, he said.

The development of education and training and socio-economic policies directly affect the quality of human resources in the sector, he said.

Tourism represents 10 per cent of the global GDP and accounts for nearly 10 per cent of jobs in the world.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation said there were 1.18 billion international tourists in 2015 and forecasts the number to increase to 1.8 billion by 2030.

Asia is expected to be the fastest growing destination.

Philippines Medical Tourism-Ranks Eight in the World

THE Philippines has landed the eighth spot in a list of top medical tourism destinations in the world in 2015, the Department of Tourism (DOT) announced.

In a list complied by the International Healthcare Research Center and the Medical Tourism Association (MTA), the Philippines ranked ahead of countries like Japan and France.

Canada emerged as the top medical tourism destination worldwide followed by the United Kingdom and Israel, which came second and third, respectively.

MTA is a global non-profit association for medical tourism and international patient industry. It represents the healthcare providers, governments, insurance companies, employers and other buyers of healthcare.

According to MTA, clients of the Philippines for medical tourism come from East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan), Sri Lanka, the Pacific Islands (Guam, Palau, Marshall Islands, and Micronesia), Australia, North and South America, Europe and the United Kingdom, and the Gulf States.

It also noted that Filipino expats and overseas Filipino workers prefer to have their medical procedures done in the country.

Medical tourism in the Philippines caters to about 80,000 to 250,000 patients or clients annually.

There are about 62 hospitals around the country that are now internationally accredited. Capitalizing on its signature warm hospitality, coupled with its inherent natural jewels, high-caliber English medical professionals and competitive medical packages, stakeholders in the industry believe Cebu can compete with its Asian neighbors.

DOT 7 Director Rowena Montecillo said this recognition is a welcome development, as it will strengthen the country’s foothold in medical tourism.

The tourism regional chief said her office and the DOT’s Market Development Group-Medical Tourism team are working with the Cebu Health and Wellness Council (CHWC) in putting together attractive packages and linking with medical tourism facilitators from abroad.

“Several groups have visited Cebu to conduct ocular inspection of medical facilities, accommodation establishments and tourist attractions. They have also met with the CHWC stakeholders,” said Montecillo.

Currently, the DOT, Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Trade and Industry – Board of Investments (DTI–BOI) have a joint program to promote Philippine medical tourism.

The informal partnership resulted in a road map that identified five major segments in the international medical travel sector—tourists, who come for spa treatments and other wellness services; medical tourists, who avail of low-acuity medical procedures; medical travelers, who purposely come to avail of more complex procedures; international patients, including overseas Filipino workers, expats, and retirees; and accompanying guests, either friends or immediate kin of travelers.

While the recognition is good news for the industry, Spa and Wellness Association of Cebu president Johnie Lim said the country’s improvement in medical tourism has not been felt yet by all players.

“That’s good if it’s true but for day spas like us, it has not been felt, at least as far as mine is concerned,” said Lim, who owns the Body and Sole chain.

Tourism advocation Robert Lim Joseph, in a separate interview, said that getting the accreditation of international medical insurance companies, DOT’s support for medical tourism marketing focused on specialized services, and hospitals meeting the international standards are key factors that would help drive growth in this emerging sector.

He also suggested that the tourism department and stakeholders target the ASEAN and the Middle East markets.

The global health and wellness tourism market is worth $438.6 billion and Philippine medical tourism was able to generate $66 million in 2013 and $145 million in 2014, according to the 2014 study by Ian Youngman, a medical tourism author.

DOT Director for Medical Travel and Wellness Tourism, Cynthia Lazo, said it is crucial to have a “One Country Package”.

“It has to be a country effort, a collective effort of every medical and wellness facility in the country, for the Philippines to be accepted in the medical and wellness market,” she said in a statement.

“Our value proposition is, time and again, our 7,107 islands, which a medical traveler can choose from while availing of a clinical or wellness procedure in the country,” Lazo added.

Phuket,Thailand Medical Tourism

Phuket has the potential to become a leading regional hub for medical tourism, an industry that is well positioned for exponential growth primarily led by the demand for aesthetic treatments. Investment opportunities in medical facilities and premises are increasingly attractive amid the backdrop of a global economic slowdown.
Despite the diminishing legacy market for ‘Gender Reassignment’ Surgery (GRS), more commonly known as Sex Change Operations, the market has continued to flourish by focusing on the global movement for beauty enhancement. Mergers and acquisition activity is high in Thailand’s medical sector, seeking to develop quality centers and facilities to cope with increasing demand from the growing Asian middle-class and a broader international audience.

Currently, the island’s major existing medical institutions include Phuket International Hospital (PIH) and Bangkok Phuket Hospital (BPH), while on the wellness side there are the Thanyapura Integrative Health Center, Dr Orawan, and the Radiant Medical Clinic among a growing list of new arrivals.

With Phuket’s high growth over the last decade, existing facilities have had a hard time coping with demand and now Australians and Chinese are beginning to consume more of the products and services of these medical institutions.

Nearly half of the medical tourists to Phuket come for cosmetic operations such as breast augmentation, which is the most popular procedure offered. These operations attracted more than 15,000 patients over the past five years at major hospitals. Recently, there is a surge in demand for anti-aging treatment driven by the influx of female patients from Mainland China. The number of medical tourist arrivals is rising consistently at an annual rate of over twenty per cent in recent years. The gloom surrounding the global economy has not altered the growth trajectory of the industry.

According to the findings presented in C9 Hotelworks’ recent Phuket Medical Tourism Market report, Australia has become the top nationality, making up close to half of all patients in the market and 70 per cent of cosmetic surgery clients. In light of the large number of appointment cancellations triggered by the Australian Dollar (AUD) to Thai Baht devaluation in 2015, we may see some shifts in geographic segments in 2016.

Competitive pricing is a significant advantage for Phuket in attracting travellers worldwide. The average expenditure per cosmetic surgery patient amounts to THB150,000 while the average spend on anti-aging treatments is about 80,000 baht in Phuket. These price points are attractive to the quality-conscious, yet price-sensitive visitors.

Most hospitals and clinics work with medical tour agents to promote packages that include treatment and holiday, thereby enhancing the island’s appeal to international patients.

The formation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will in part catalyze intra-ASEAN cross-border investments. Healthcare services in many ASEAN countries will not be able to serve the needs of their rising middle-class populations. Therefore, more consumers from these countries, especially neighboring Vietnam and Myanmar, are expected to come to Phuket

Expanding market demand for aesthetic treatments is expected to lead the way for more investment in the medical industry. However, as the competition intensifies, it will trigger the development of non-aesthetic medical service segments such as disease treatments, with more hospitals and clinics venturing into this area to diversify their businesses and gain a competitive edge, further enhancing Phuket’s appeal as a medical hub.

Today’s wave of investment is just one of the trends enabling the market’s evolution. Beside the opportunities in green-field and brown-field projects across the industry, we are seeing significant convergence across different industry sectors. Medical institutions venturing into providing quality recuperation accommodations to patients, and similarly hotel groups investing in healthcare services, will blur the lines between medical service providers and facilities owners

The Growing Trends of Wellness Vacations

Going on holiday used to be all about excess – excess sleep, excess food, excess alcohol. But holidaymakers are now seeking something different, and using their time away to become healthier and happier.

Wellness tourism is booming. Recent figures show that $1 in every $7 spent on tourism goes on wellness pursuits – this translates to a market of about $480 billion, which is tipped to reach $750 billion by 2017.

Susie Ellis, chairman and CEO of Global Spa & Wellness Summit, believes this holiday about-face comes from “the rise in chronic diseases and obesity, the unprecedented 24/7 stress of modern life, and people’s increasingly diminished time off.

“These factors mean that what people want to achieve with travel is undergoing a sea change. Millions more each year are demanding destinations that deliver physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental health – along with enjoyment,” Ellis says.

What’s happening here?

On a local level, research suggests that even though Australians are seeking such experiences, the boom is more subdued within the domestic industry, which is likely due to our high Australian dollar.

A 2013 report on our wellness industry says Australia’s ageing population is set to ensure that demand for health and wellness tourism continues to build. However, it adds that destination spas in Australia “may not be the major beneficiaries of this”.

Instead it predicts that if the exchange value of the Australian dollar remains high, “consumers will likely be driven overseas to Bali, Fiji and Thailand for more affordable spa tourism in more exotic locations”.

Despite the challenges of our strong dollar, Sharon Kolkka, general manager of luxury Queensland retreat Gwinganna, says that since they opened eight years ago, they’ve seen a significant growth in the domestic interest for wellness holidays.

“Guests are seeking ways to feel better and enjoy their time off in different and more fulfilling ways,” Kolkka says. “Wellness tourism has the opportunity to provide something that can help us develop better health at a time of overload and high stress, with increasingly alarming statistics on blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.”

Like Ellis, Kolkka predicts the concept will continue to grow as lifestyles become faster-paced and more technology-driven, and “wellness” gets harder to maintain.

Healthy revenue raisers

Research has pinpointed wellness tourists to be “high-yield” travellers who spend 130 per cent more than the average tourist. Seeing this revenue potential, major hotel brands that traditionally cater to higher-end business travellers are jumping on the wellness bandwagon. The Westin group, for example, has incorporated new health features such as a sports shoes “rental” program and running maps for guests.

“Guests know that keeping fit and eating healthily keeps them performing at their best,” Brian Povinelli, global brand leader for Westin Hotels & Resorts and Le Méridien, says. “So we’re ensuring that when they stay with us, they have the opportunity to leave feeling even healthier than when they arrived.”

There was a time when luxury wellness resort Chiva-Som, in Thailand, was one of a select group offering the intensive “total wellness” packages. Now such retreats are dotted around the globe and are no longer purely the domain of the wealthy.

Chiva-Som general manager Sheila McCann has noticed that as people become busier and more time-poor, they’re prepared to spend more on healthy eating options, varied exercise programs and expert health advice – and it’s not just the pampered rich who are checking in for a life detox.

“I’ve been in the spa and wellness industry for more than three decades,” McCann says. “During that time, many people have shifted from taking a more ‘indulgent’ approach of understanding treatments such as massage for their pampering benefits to understanding their full value in holistic wellness.”

She adds that people are starting to wake up to the fact that they need to take responsibility for their own wellness and kick-start a healthier way of living. And a good time – “often the only time” – to do this is while they’re on holiday.

Thailand’s Wellness Tourism Campaign

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) invites travelers all around the world to join an activity ‘You Care You Share’ in Health and Wellness in Thailand Project to win health and wellness in Thailand with a total value of over 500,000 baht.

As health tourism has been growing and earning a great amount of national income, it is a high-potential market that has drawn global attention. Thailand is one among many countries that aim to promote the growth of health tourism as its products and services are outstanding in terms of the variety of treatments and standardized services as well as qualified staffs, all of which are ready to provide excellent services for travelers.

TAT has set its sight on health tourists to increase tourism income by raising awareness and building a good image of health and wellness in Thailand and its unique services, which conform to policy to promote Thailand as a regional hub of health tourism. Thailand is well-prepared in every aspect ranging from good services, variety of standardized healthcare providers to reasonable prices.

TAT has planned to publicize products and services about health and wellness in Thailand through online media on to provide the said information so that it can be reached by travelers widely and quickly.

Meanwhile, in order to promote health tourism in Thailand, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has launched “Health and Wellness in Thailand” Project by inviting travelers all around the world to participate in You Care You Share.

South Korea Promoting Wellness Tourism

South Korea will expand support for wellness tourism to attract health-conscious tourists across the world by combining it with unique local content such as beauty, oriental medicine, food and public saunas, the government said Wednesday.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism hosted the “International Forum on Wellness Tourism 2016” in Seoul to discuss the latest market trends and strategies with government and industry officials in the tourism, hotel and health sectors.

While medical tourism targets patients in need of treatments, wellness tourism is a more proactive and broad concept that seeks to improve or maintain health and quality of life by picking destinations for spas, beauty, fitness, meditation and other healthy activities.

The ministry said it will expand support to develop Korean-style wellness content by combining beauty, meditation, temple stays, oriental medicine and public bathhouses.

“We will expand the scope of treatment-focused medical tourism by combining health and healing to expand the rising tourism market,” Kim Jong, vice minister of culture, sports and tourism, said. “We will work with provincial governments to combine characteristic tourism resources with medical tourism as a way to promote regional tourism.”

Among the unique health offerings are public bathhouses, or “jjimjilbang,” where locals hang out and do health and beauty rituals. Large ones are equipped with restaurants, outdoor swimming pools and hair salons in addition to the usual baths and saunas.

Jim Ki-nam, a professor of the department of health administration at Yonsei University, speaks during the International Forum on Wellness Tourism 2016 held in Seoul on Aug. 31, 2016. (Yonhap)

Experts say one of the good ways to promote wellness travel is by taking advantage of existing assets such as oriental medicine, skin care and healthy food to tell compelling stories to lure health-conscious people.

“South Korea has great potential in wellness tourism as many foreigners are interested in the beauty industry and Korean women’s skin care regimen and fitness. Korean companies need to look beyond selling products to combine health experiences to expand the market,” said Jim Ki-nam, a professor of the department of health administration at Yonsei University.

The global wellness tourism market is estimated at 446 trillion won (US$438.6 billion) in 2013, accounting for 14 percent of the total tourism industry and more than double that of medical tourism, according to SRI International.

Japan wants to use 2020 Olympics as a Medical Tourism Opportunity

The health ministry is set to conduct the first large-scale survey on the nation’s medical infrastructure for foreign patients as part of efforts to improve services ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, ministry sources said.

Targeting some 4,000 hospitals and other medical facilities, the survey will assess records regarding foreigners’ past medical treatment.

Foreign tourism soared to a record 19.74 million in 2015, causing medical demand to climb.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Saturday it is hoping to use the results of the survey not only to improve medical services for foreign tourists and residents, but also to boost medical tourism.

The survey will cover institutions in about 300 municipal and prefectural governments, including those that accept emergency patients, said the ministry, which is planning to compile the results by the end of the year.

In addition to the number of foreign patients accepted at each facility, the survey will determine the number of tourists and foreign residents, the ratio of those who can speak Japanese, as well as the availability of interpreters and coordinators to guide them through the process, the sources said.

The survey will ask municipalities and prefectures about measures they are taking to promote the acceptance of foreign patients, as well as challenges faced in improving services.

The ministry said foreign visitors have complained there are only a few hospitals where they can communicate properly with staff, while staff have raised concerns about the difficulties in appropriately diagnosing or treating patients when hobbled by the language barrier.

However, it is not easy to secure medical interpreters and other personnel due to restraints on budgets and human resources.

In April 2014, the ministry launched a project that subsidizes costs related to interpreters and the translation of medical records and letters of consent.

Local governments have also started to train interpreters, the ministry said.