PETALING JAYA: The nation’s health tourism is expected to generate more than RM1.7bil in revenue once fully recovered, says Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC).
Its acting chief executive officer Farizal Jaafar said this as medical tourists started returning to the country following the reopening of borders last April.
“We have seen an encouraging surge in the number of healthcare traveller arrivals and the sector is well on its way to achieving post-pandemic recovery.
“The nation’s healthcare travel industry achieved a 100% increase in healthcare traveller revenue in 2022 compared to the previous year.
“It recorded RM1.3bil in revenue which is 76% of its pre-pandemic performance of RM1.7bil in 2019,” he said when contacted yesterday.
Farizal noted the increase was a far cry from the significant decrease of RM777mil in 2020 and RM585mil in 2021.
He added that the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Blueprint 2021-2025 also provided a solid foundation for recovery of the sector, which aims to surpass its RM1.7bil in healthcare travel revenue.
Malaysian Private Hospitals Association president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said the sector brought in more than 10 million healthcare visitors over the past decade and had room for growth.
He said that the private hospitals should be given leeway to promote their services abroad, particularly with growing competition from regional markets.
“Many countries are promoting medical tourism in a more liberal way.
“We are very cautious but the regulations should be relaxed a bit,” he added.
Dr Kuljit also suggested that promotions by the government should be stepped up so that the hospitals would not be in breach of regulations.
“We are looking at our services being promoted widely by the government so that it will not look like advertising,” he added.
Echoing a similar sentiment was Mahkota Medical Centre chief executive officer Stanley Lam.
“There is growing competition from countries such as Thailand and Singapore with Indonesia now promoting its own medical tourism.
“We must not be left behind,” he said.
Lam also said that MHTC should be given more allocation to better promote the sector.
“Medical tourists generate four times the revenue compared to normal tourists due to the spill over effect.
“Apart from healthcare, they spend on accommodation, retail and food while seeking treatment here.
“They will also come back for their follow-up treatments,” he said.
On the recovery of the sector, he said that it was about 80% at the moment for MMC since the borders were reopened.
“It is not fully recovered as there are still some challenges following the post-Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“Among them is flight connectivity to certain smaller destinations including higher airfare.”