Visa Boost for Medical Tourism
Thailand’s already strong medical tourism sector is projected to enjoy further growth in coming months thanks to the government’s introduction of a new visa extension scheme. People from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and China for the purposes of medical treatment are eligible for the programme.
According to a report in The Bangkok Post, the latest visa extensions are part of a strategy to boost Thailand’s reputation as a medical tourism hub. Patients from these countries will have permission to stay in Thailand for up to 90 days.
The new extended stay allowances also apply to up to four companions per patient. Previously, people from these countries were only permitted to stay for one month. Noppadon Pakprot, deputy governor for tourism products and business at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), believes that this latest measure will give the medical tourism sector a significant boost.
Figures published by Kasikorn Bank’s Research Centre, suggest that medical and wellness institutions in Thailand provided 3.2 million treatments to foreigners last year. The majority of these were medical check-ups, cosmetic surgery procedures and dental services. The research also revealed that visitors travelling to the Kingdom for the purpose of medical tourism will help to generate THB48-49 million (US$1.4 million-1.5 million) in income for private hospitals in 2017. This figure represents a growth of 3-4% year-on-year, compared with the 8% increase recorded in 2016.
Kasikorn is not the only source to recognise Thailand’s potential as a world leader in the medical tourism sector. At the recent Messe Dusseldorf Asia trade fair, managing director Gernot Ringling revealed that Thailand could emerge as the region’s medical tourism hotspot, as it attracts 550,000 Asean patients on a yearly basis.
“Across the region medical tourism is on the rise with more than 3.5 million consumers arriving in Southeast Asia annually,” he said. “Globally, the medical tourism market is expanding by up to 25 percent each year and is worth more than US$55 billion annually.”
The development of advanced technologies that can deliver increasingly high-quality care is an important part of the sector’s growth. For example, robotic surgery, 3D printing, implantable devices and use of automation all have an important role.
The country’s broad selection of luxury private villas is also supporting the burgeoning medical, health and wellness segment. These exclusive properties are increasingly being used as a tranquil base for those who want to recuperate following medical procedures in the Kingdom. Many of the most luxurious properties with the best facilities are situated in islands like Phuket and Koh Samui.
In addition to providing private surroundings for those building their strength back up after medical operations, many of Thailand’s private villas also come with a dedicated team of staff. Having helpful assistance on hand throughout the day is an important part of the recovery process for patients who have travelled to Thailand for a medical procedure.