GEORGE TOWN: They come, they eat, and they enjoy the sun. And most importantly, they also get their looks enhanced.
This is what most health tourists are coming here for as the reasonably priced procedures, the language and food have made the state one of the most sought-after places for plastic surgeries.
Singaporean Annie Lee, 56, who came to have her eye bags reduced, said she was paying just over RM6,000 for the procedure.
“Elsewhere, it would have cost me more.
“Besides, I have trust in the plastic surgeon here, and I have no problem communicating with them, ” she said, adding that it was her second cosmetic procedure here after the first one in 2007.
A plastic surgeon, Dr Lee, said plastic surgery in Penang was significantly cheaper than other countries like Korea and Japan.
“We have the latest up-to-date surgical equipment and technology that are on par with countries like Korea and Japan, which are known to be go-to countries for plastic surgery.
“Most of our procedures are also on par in terms of material, equipment and implants.
“Yet, we are cheaper by a significant amount, ” he said.
Dr Lee said the most popular surgeries were eyelid surgery, facelifts, rhinoplasty, breast implants, tummy tucks, liposuction, laser treatments and other injectable fillers.
He said most of the clients he received were mainly from Indonesia, adding that he also received Singaporean patients who would travel to Penang for plastic surgery as it was much cheaper.
“The surgeries here range from RM5,000 to RM50,000, and if they are carried out together, they only come up to S$16,000, which is much cheaper for Singaporeans.
“As for my Indonesian patients, it is more convenient for them to travel to Penang. Flight tickets are also cheaper for them.
“Hence, when they visit Penang for plastic surgery, they end up paying only half the amount that they would have to fork out elsewhere, ” he said.
Dr Lee also said his Indonesian patients felt at home in Penang due to the language and food.
“Additionally, the Hokkien dialect spoken here makes the Indonesian Chinese feel at home, ” he added.
Dr Lee said out of about 60 patients he got in a week, an average of 20% to 30% of them were foreigners, including Caucasians.
“Regardless, results from the plastic surgeries are the most important factor.
“When clients are happy with the results, they return for other procedures.
“Our results are on par with procedures that are usually done in countries like Korea, ” he said.
Meanwhile, another plastic and cosmetic surgery senior consultant at a leading hospital said most of their patients were Indonesian Chinese from Medan, Acheh and Palembang.
“The treatments and procedures they seek are mostly double eyelid surgery, nasal augmentation and lower eyelid reduction, which concerns eye-bags.
“Other foreigners like Europeans, especially those from the United Kingdom, would usually opt for nasal reduction and facelifts, as the price is much cheaper here, ” he said yesterday.
Penang tourism development, arts, culture and heritage committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said Penang was the top state in the country when it came to medical tourism.
“Many tourists seek good and quality services through cosmetic surgery overseas, and this makes Penang an attractive option. This is due to the high cost of the procedures in Western countries compared to Penang.
“Additionally, language is not a problem here for Westerners as many doctors here speak English fluently. We also offer reliable services as many professionals here were trained overseas, ” he said.
Penang, which generates up to 50% of the country’s medical tourism income, was earlier quoted as being the “top medical tourism destination in Malaysia” in a recent article by The International Medical Travel Journal, a world-leading journal for the medical travel sector.
According to the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), Penang’s healthcare industry alone generated some RM500mil in revenue during 2017.
MHTC reportedly attributed success factors for Penang’s medical tourism to affordable private hospitals, niche marketing strategy and supporting infrastructure like hotels and malls.
It said that of the total, Indonesians make up the biggest group of inbound tourists seeking medical treatment at various medical facilities in Penang.