Thailand seeks to boost Medical Tourism Segment

An expanded product range aimed at broadening the client base alongside plans to target new markets are part of Thailand’s campaign to shore up its medical tourism industry.

Thailand is coming under pressure from increased competition and weaker economic performance in key source countries.
In early September the Ministry of Public Health unveiled a new series of packages as part of the “Visit Thailand Enhance Your Healthy Life” programme aimed at increasing medical and wellness tourism arrivals.

Under the new initiative – developed in conjunction with state agencies and private health care providers – overseas visitors will be able to undergo standard health checks at up to 70 internationally certified hospitals and clinics, combining a regular medical assessment with their vacation.

Additionally, the ministry is introducing a wider range of dental and reproductive health services for foreign visitors.

The government is also looking at shifting its promotional efforts towards newer markets, such as China, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, to take advantage of the growing affluence in those countries and the rising demand for professional health care.

To encourage health tourism from these nations, the government has tripled the period visitors undergoing medical treatments can stay in Thailand to 90 days. This would allow for overseas visitors to undergo extensive procedures and to potentially combine treatment with leisure travel.

Uncertain prognosis

Efforts to broaden the base of Thailand’s health and wellness tourism sector are timely, as the market is coming under pressure from a range of external factors.

Last year the medical tourism segment maintained its record of strong growth, with local media reporting foreign patient numbers up 10.2% year-on-year (y-o-y) to 1.8m in in early September, representing 6% of total arrivals in 2015. It is estimated that receipts from medical tourism account for 0.4% of national GDP.

This strong performance, however, could come under threat this year. Local financial services firm Kasikorn Securities has warned that weaker economic growth in key visitor markets such as the Middle East and Russia, a result of lower energy prices, could erode the numbers of foreign visitors making use of Thailand’s medical facilities.

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