Medical tourism within Thailand has increased dramatically over recent years. If we look back over the previous five years alone we can see an almost four fold increase in medical tourists arriving in Thailand. In 2005 there were around 500,000 medical visitors seeking treatment in Thailand, by 2009, this number had increased to approximately 1,400,000. This is a large increase by any standard and there are good reasons for it. Firstly, Thailand is able to offer highly competitive prices for treatment in comparison to most developed nations. Secondly, the quality of hospitals and trained personnel is of a standard similar to those seen throughout the very best hospitals worldwide. Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, Thailand is well placed in being able to offer a wide range of tourist attractions and resort choices. It is possibly this last factor that has helped to drive the industry forward as potential medical tourists seek to combine their scheduled treatments with an exotic holiday.
Helping to further develop the medical tourist industry within Thailand have been the incredible investments and developments made by the private hospital sector. Looking to benefit from the growing trend of visitors, private hospitals have invested heavily in buildings, state of the art equipment and staff. Leading the way in attracting visiting patients have been hospitals like Bumrungrad International Hospital and the Bangkok Hospital Group. These hospitals attract as many as half of their patients from outside of Thailand. If we look at the country distribution of medical visitors, important markets include; Europe, Japan, America, Bangladesh and Myanmar. This combined market accounts for approximately 25% of the total. Arab states, incredibly total almost 60% of the total market. So why are Arabs, in ever increasing numbers seeking medical treatment from outside of their home country?
Unlike many other countries, surprisingly cost is not necessarily one of the primary reasons. If we take the example of the U.A.E., who staggeringly account for over 40% of Thailand’s medical tourism industry, many of the country’s inhabitants can be considered as wealthy by any measure. Clearly, this group of people is unlikely to visit Thailand, for medical treatments, on cost considerations alone. Reasons cited for seeking treatment outside of the UAE include a loss of faith in local services, with many complaining that the overall quality of local service is not up to standard. Also, visitors see a visit to Thailand, for medical treatment, as an ideal opportunity for a vacation in a liberal environment with extensive leisure options available.
Arabs have a history of seeking medical treatment from outside of their own country, but what has changed is that since the mainland terrorist attacks on the USA in 2001, they are now more reluctant to seek medical treatment from western countries. This is principally since they sadly and all too frequently feel, particularly in America, a sense of hostility towards them. When arranging, in some cases life saving surgery, it is obvious that a more relaxed and welcoming environment is far more likely to induce both a quicker recovery and a more positive experience. In this regard Thailand has very much been the one to gain.
In response to this influx of Arabs patients, hospitals in Thailand have been quick to respond and have made extensive efforts to further grow this lucrative market sector. Hospitals like The Bumrungrad International Hospital have already furnished their facilities to the very highest of standards. Additionally, with Arab speaking staff, a choice of Halal food, numerous prayer rooms and even strategically placed compasses pointing to MECCA, everything has been done, and continues to be done, to ensure a very comfortable stay for the Arab visitor.
With the huge revenues involved from medical visitors to Thailand from Arab countries, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) have targeted this specific group, and are currently engaged in a wide range of promotional activities, in an attempt to further expand the market. The TAT has very ambitious plans to grow this sector, but the U.A.E. is not going to give up without a fight. Currently under construction, and due to be completed this year, is the huge and costly development of Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC). If this new initiative is enough to slow down and ultimately reverse the flow of patients from the U.A.E. remains to be seen.
This article was written and submitted by Mark Alexander, CEO and chief SEO consultant for www.seo2marketing.com and www.seo2marketing.co.uk. Search engine optimization services Bangkok and Leeds in the UK.