Medical tourism: Falling oil prices & Middle East tourism

Medical tourism: Falling oil prices & Middle East tourism

Thailand has long been a leading medical tourism destination. (File photo)
Thailand has long been a leading medical tourism destination. (File photo)

Weak economy has reduced flow of medical tourists to Thailand, reducing revenue at leading hospitals such as Bumgrungrad but govt has 10-year plan to promote sector.


Medical tourism: Falling oil prices, less business from Middle East


Oil slumps. Middle Eastern patients cancel medical treatment abroad. Thai hospital stocks slide.

Weak growth outlooks in Gulf states in the Middle East have reduced the flow of medical tourists to Thailand.


Thailand's healthcare shares have surged more than 800% over the past seven years.

Between 1.3 million and 1.8 million medical tourists travelled to Thailand in 2015.

Medical tourism generated 107 billion baht ($3 billion) of revenue in 2014, according to the latest Thai government estimate.

Thailand is well-known for cosmetic surgery and sex-change operations.

Sitting at the apex of the industry is Bumrungrad Hospital, which attracts more than half a million foreign patients a year and has a network of 32 referral offices everywhere from Mongolia to Ethiopia.

A reported 67% of revenue came from overseas visitors last quarter, company figures show.

Myanmar residents were the biggest source, accounting for 8.4% of total patients, followed by 8.3% from the UAE and 5.9% from Oman.


High stock valuations, however, are starting to look stretched amid the falling demand for medical tourism.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) Health Care Services Index has fallen 2.6% since closing on a record high on April 21.

Healthcare services, however, is still the best- performing industry group in the SET Index, rallying almost 28% over the past 12 months. It trades at 6.8 times its book value, compared with 3.8 for the MSCI World Health Care Index.


Bangkok's Bumrungrad Hospital, known as the grand-daddy of all international hospitals, has slumped 17% since early March after patient volumes from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), its second-biggest source of overseas visitors, fell 20% in the first quarter of the year. 

More than one in three foreigners treated at Bumrungrad are from the Gulf states and Kasikorn Securities says declining growth in the region and a rise in competition from clinics in the UAE, where the government is encouraging its citizens to stay home for medical care, are curbing demand.

Kasikorn Securities downgraded its earning forecasts for Bumrungrad by 8% to 13% in 2016 to 2018 to reflect the weak economic outlook in the Gulf and rising competition from Abu Dhabi's Al Noor Hospitals Group, according to a May 19 note by analyst Jitima Ratanatam in Bangkok. The UAE's economy has been hit by the plunge in oil since mid-2014 and is forecast to expand 2.5% this year, from more than 7% in 2012.

Other Thai hospitals are also under pressure. Chiang Mai Ram Medical Business reported a 41% slump in first- quarter profit. Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, the largest company in the Thai medical tourism sector, was downgraded to neutral from outperform by Credit Suisse Group AG last week.


Recognising the importance of health care to the Thai economy, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's military government has drafted a 10-year plan to promote the sector.

As part of the plan, the staying period for medical treatment for patients from China, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam has been tripled to 90 days.

Even if Middle East demand keeps declining, growth in patients from Southeast Asian countries with less-advanced medical technology such as Myanmar will support the industry say some experts.

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  • abroad: in or to a foreign country - ในต่างประเทศ
  • according to (prep): as stated or reported by somebody/something - ตามคำบอกเล่า, ตามรายงาน
  • accounting for (verb): being -
  • advanced (adj): having the most modern and recently developed ideas, methods, etc - ก้าวหน้า, สมัยใหม่
  • analyst: a person whose job involves examining facts or materials in order to give an opinion on them - นักวิเคราะห์
  • apex: the top; the highest point -
  • attract: to cause someone to be interested in something - ดึงดูดความสนใจ
  • cancel (verb): to decide to stop something that has been arranged from taking place - ยกเลิก
  • citizen: someone who has the right to live permanently in a particular country - พลเมือง 
  • clinic: a place where a person goes to receive medical treatment -
  • compare (verb): to show or state that somebody/something is similar to somebody/something else - เปรียบเทียบ
  • competition: a situation in which people or organizations compete, i.e., try to be more successful or better than somebody else who is trying to do the same as you - การแข่งขัน
  • curb: to control or limit something - จำกัดขอบเขต, ควบคุม
  • demand (noun): the need and desire of people to buy goods - อุปสงค์
  • downgrade: to reduce someone or something to a lower rank or position - ลดความสำคัญ
  • draft: to write a document, plan, etc. that may be changed before it is finally accepted - ร่าง
  • encouraging: creating hope; positive; indicating something good is likely to happen - ทําให้ใจมีกําลังขึ้น, ชูใจ
  • estimate: an amount that you guess or calculate using the information available - ประมาณการ
  • expert: someone who has a particular skill or who knows a lot about a particular subject - ผู้เชี่ยวชาญ
  • figures (noun): amounts, numbers - จำนวนเลข, ตัวเลข
  • flow: continuous movement - การไหล
  • flow: supply of something that continues without stopping - การไหล
  • forecast: a statement about what will happen in the future based on information available now - การพยากรณ์, การคาดการณ์
  • generate: to produce - ผลิต, ก่อให้เกิด
  • growth (noun): economic growth, an increase in economic activity - การเติบโต
  • index: a number that shows the price, value, or level of something compared with something else - ดัชนี
  • industry: the people and activities involved in producing a particular thing, or in providing a particular service; the production of goods from raw materials, especially in factories - อุตสาหกรรม
  • international: connected with or involving two or more countries - นานาชาติ, สากล, ระหว่างประเทศ
  • latest (adj): newest; most recent - ] ล่าสุด, See also: ทันสมัยที่สุด, เกิดหลังสุด
  • medical: connected with illness and injury and their treatment - ทางการแพทย์, ด้านการแพทย์, เกี่ยวกับการแพทย์
  • medical tourism (noun): when people combine tourism with cheaper or higher quality medical treatment in another country -
  • network: a large system of connected parts, organisations, people, etc. - เครือข่าย
  • neutral: a person, group or country that does not support either side in a disagreement, competition or war - ผู้เป็นกลาง, ผู้ไม่ฝักใฝ่ฝ่ายใดฝ่ายหนึ่ง
  • operations: the activity or work done in an area of business or industry - ปฎิบัติการ
  • outlook: an idea about what a situation will be like in the future - อนาคตที่คาดหวังไว้, ทัศนคติ
  • overseas: connected with foreign countries, especially those separated from your country by the sea or ocean - เกี่ยวกับต่างประเทศ, ข้ามทะเล
  • overseas: in another country - ต่างประเทศ
  • patient: someone who is receiving medical treatment - คนป่วย, คนไข้
  • patients (noun): people who are receiving medical treatment - คนป่วย, คนไข้
  • perform: how well someone does some task or activity; how well they achieve their goals - การปฏิบัติงาน, การทำให้บรรลุผลสำเร็จ
  • plunge: to fall quickly from a high position - ดิ่งลงมาจากท้องฟ้า
  • pressure: a force pressing against something - ความกดดัน
  • profit: money that you make from selling goods and services after all your costs have been paid - กำไร
  • quarter (noun): three months of the year on the official calendar of the government or companies - ไตรมาส
  • rally (verb): a rise in prices after a period of falling prices or little activity -
  • recognise: to know who a person is or what something is - จำได้ รู้จัก
  • record: the best or most ever achieved - สถิติ
  • reflect: to show - สะท้อน แสดงถึง
  • region: a large area of land or space, usually without exact limits or borders - ภูมิภาค, ขอบเขต, แถบ, บริเวณ
  • resident: a person who lives in a particular area - ผู้ที่อาศัยในท้องที่
  • revenue: income from taxes or business activities - รายได้
  • security (noun): financial assets such as stock shares or bonds - หลักทรัพย์, พันธบัตร, หุ้น, หลักทรัพย์ค้ำประกัน
  • share: any of the units of equal value into which a company is divided and sold to raise money. People who own shares receive part of the company's profits - หุ้น
  • slide (verb): (past form "slid") to decrease; to fall -
  • slump: a period when an economy is much less successful than before and many people lose their jobs - ช่วงเศรษฐกิจตกต่ำ
  • slump: to fall suddenly - ตกต่ำมาก
  • source: the place or person or something comes from or starts at, or the cause of something - ต้นกำเนิด, แหล่งกำเนิด
  • source: the place/person/organisation from which you get something - แหล่ง
  • stock (noun): a share that somebody has bought in a company or business - หุ้น, หุ้นทุน
  • Stock Exchange of Thailand: the main institution in Thailand where shares in companies are bought and sold - ตลาดหลักทรัพย์แห่งประเทศไทย
  • stretched: too high; over-valued -
  • surge: a sudden increase in something - การเพิ่มขึ้นอย่างรวดเร็ว
  • surgery: medical treatment in which a doctor cuts open someone’s body - การทำศัลยกรรม
  • total: including everything; being the amount or number after everyone or everything is counted or added together - ทั้งหมด
  • trades at: sells at -
  • treat: to provide medical care - รักษา
  • treatment: the process of providing medical care - การรักษา
  • visitor (noun): a person who goes to a place for a short time; a tourist or guest - นักท่องเที่ยว, ผู้มาเยี่ยม, ผู้มาเยือน
  • volume (noun): an amount of something - ปริมาณ
  • well-known (adj.): famous, everyone knows about it - ซึ่งมีชื่อเสียง, ซึ่งเป็นที่รู้จักกันดี, เป็นที่รู้จัก, เลื่องลือ
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