Medical tourism in Thailand rebounds with travel revival


A Thai masseuse working during the APEC summit in Bangkok recently. Medical tourism in Thailand, which includes both healthcare and wellness services, is a fast-growing sector. — AFP

Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, Asia’s largest hospital operator outside of China, says medical tourism has been in the revival stage in Thailand for the past few months and will continue to expand in part because of lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic.

One learning point has been that the government must be more responsive to health-care providers, according to BDMS CEO Poramaporn Prasarttong-Osoth. Another is more awareness among the public about the value of preventative measures regarding health, such as check-ups, genetic tests and improved diet, she said.

The expanded awareness of wellness will propel growth in Thailand’s medical tourism sector, which will cooperate more with the travel and services sectors, she said at the Bloomberg Business Summit in Bangkok recently.

“We have the environment, we have Thai culture, personal service and a good location, so we have high opportunity,” said Poramaporn, whose company currently manages many hospitals, a quarter of which are considered core properties in Thailand’s capital city and tourism destinations such as Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.

To support growth, Thailand’s Cabinet recently approved a new one-year visa programme for foreigners seeking medical treatment, effective Jan 1, 2023, as South-East Asia’s second-largest economy competes for international patients with healthcare providers in countries including South Korea, Singapore and India.

Pakorn Peetathawatchai, president of the Stock Exchange of Thailand, said earlier at the summit that wellness sectors, including tourism and health care, are sunshine industries for investors looking to Thailand even as the country’s economic recovery remains uneven.

About 12% of BDMS’s patient – visit count comes from non-Thais, according to the company’s website, with Japan and the Middle East key markets. That will grow as Covid-19 winds down, she said.

BDMS, which competes locally with numerous private healthcare operators including Bumrungrad Hospital, expanded its services during the pandemic through teleconsultation, home care and wellness, she said, adding that it provided service to many foreign patients were treated the past couple years even though they were in their home countries. – Bloomberg

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