PETALING JAYA: International tourists are coming to Malaysia on medical tourism junkets, lured by high-quality yet affordable healthcare and the good climate.
“It’s more lucrative than conventional tourism because healthcare travellers tend to stay longer for their treatment and check-ups,” Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) ground transportation vice-president S. Jayakumar said.
On average, a healthcare traveller spends a minimum of two weeks in the country.
“After their treatment they prefer to recuperate here and usually stay for long periods.
“We make more profit when their relatives come from their home countries to visit them while they are recovering here,” he said.
Jayakumar said Malaysia was also a preferred choice for its year-round warm weather.
“European healthcare travellers prefer to recuperate in our climate as it can be more comfortable compared with the cold weather back home,” he said.
The Health Ministry said the country welcomed about 850,000 medical tourists in 2015 with revenue amounting to more than RM900mil compared with RM777mil in 2014.
This revenue is from hospitals and excludes additional expenses by medical tourists such as food and accommodation.
While the latest statistics have yet to be released, it is believed that there were more than one million medical tourists last year.
“It’s expected that there will be a gradual 10% increase of such visitors this year,” said Jayakumar.
International Living, a US-based publication which focuses on global retirement and relocation opportunities, put Malaysia on the number one spot in its index on countries with the best healthcare in the world.
“Malaysia has some of the best-trained doctors in Asia and the majority of them were trained in the US, Australia, or the UK.
“All of them speak English too, and that takes a lot of the stress away from what is already a stressful situation,” it said on its website.
The report also highlighted that the number of medical tourists arriving in Malaysia went up by about 100% in the past five years.
Keith Hockton, who is the International Living correspondent here, said that 80% of healthcare travellers to Malaysia come from neighbouring countries but there was an expected increase this year from Australia, United States, New Zealand, Europe as well as the Middle East and north Africa.
“Numerous hospitals in Penang and Kuala Lumpur are among South-East Asia’s first recipients of the United States’ prestigious Joint Commission International certification.
“Malaysia has no less than eight hospitals with JCI-accredition which is seen as the gold standard for healthcare service providers around the world,” he said.