PETALING JAYA: Malaysia will continue efforts to promote medical tourism with the nation’s first international healthcare travel campaign despite the coronavirus outbreak.
It is set to carry out the Malaysia Year of Healthcare Travel 2020 campaign to draw travellers to seek health and wellness treatments in the country while enjoying other attractions.
With the global outbreak of the virus, though, it will be a challenge, said Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) chief executive officer Sherene Azli.
“With various precautionary steps and measures put in place by our government, MHTC will continue to promote this international campaign, ” she told Sunday Star.
Sherene said the safety of Malaysians remained a top priority.
“MHTC is confident that with Malaysia’s strong governance, we will withstand this outbreak effectively, ” she said.
It was reported that MHTC is expecting about two million healthcare tourists this year.
Hosted in tandem with Visit Malaysia 2020, the Malaysia Year of Healthcare Travel 2020 will present a more complete package to travellers, with those coming for health and wellness treatments being able to enjoy the country’s tourist attractions as well.
MHTC is hoping to make Malaysia a top destination for foreigners seeking fertility treatments. In the last five years, there has been a 300% increase in patients from China coming to Malaysia for this purpose.
“That is actually a testament to the quality of treatments that we deliver, ” Sherene said, adding that MHTC plans to make Malaysia the fertility hub of Asia, targeting medical tourists from China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The spike in healthcare travellers from China to Malaysia is linked to the Chinese government’s relaxation of the one child policy in October 2015.
“Following the move, MHTC estimates there are around 90 million couples in China looking to conceive a second child.
“Of the total, 40 million are aged over 40, ” Sherene said.
In Malaysia, an average of up to 7,000 in vitro fertilisation cycles were performed in 2017.
“This number is targeted to increase to up to 20,000 cycles by this year, ” she said.
Malaysia receives the highest number of healthcare travellers from Indonesia. Other top travellers are from countries like Australia, Bangladesh, Britain, India, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore and the United States, based on MHTC’s inaugural industry report, Malaysia Healthcare Chronicles 2009-2019.
“The fact that Malaysia attracts patients from developed nations such as Britain, USA and Singapore speaks volumes of the positive perception of trust and credibility that prevails for Malaysia’s healthcare industry, ” read the report.
In line with MHTC’s goal, the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) is exploring the different needs of these travellers to better facilitate their stay.
Yap Lip Seng, who is MAH CEO, said hotels under the association were already catering to these patients by providing specially equipped rooms, logistic arrangements and on-call resident medical officers.
“MAH is working with MHTC to set the standards of such accommodation needs, to ease hotel members looking to tap this market, ” he said.
The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) is also discussing with MHTC on how best to train travel agents to become healthcare travel facilitators and promote the various medical products offered in the country.
Lauding MHTC’s aim to make Malaysia a fertility hub, MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the cost of treatment plus a relaxing holiday may be cheaper than just the medical treatment in other countries.
“Tapping into this market will result in foreign exchange earnings for the country.
“Malaysia should cash in on the success of our fertility treatments as it will enhance the image of our country as a haven for medical tourism, ” he said.
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