Medical tourism eyed as cash cow
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Medical tourism eyed as cash cow

The Public Health Ministry has launched its "Health for Wealth" concept to build the country's economic strength through the promotion of medical tourism.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul on Tuesday expressed satisfaction with the recent spike in tourist arrivals which last week topped 10 million so far this year.

The country passed the milestone at Suvarnabhumi airport on Saturday, beating its visitor arrival target for this year. It is a testament to a strong tourism rebound since the easing of the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions.

The ministry has since moved to adopt the Health for Wealth concept to strengthen the country economically by focusing on promoting it as a medical tourism and wellness retreat hub, he said.

According to the Medical Tourism Association, Thailand ranked 5th among the most popular health tourism destinations in the world last year.

Factors that still make Thailand a popular destination for tourists include the high standards of medical care, quality treatments, reasonable fees and the affordable cost of living for long-stayers as they recover. There is also a favourable medical visa and infrastructure, the minister said.

Dr Sura Wisetsak, director-general of the Department of Health Service Support, cited a survey by the Bank of Thailand (BoT) and the department on 30 hospitals last year. It found that tourists who came for medical treatment spent about 11.9 billion baht, up 47% from the previous year.

Most patients were from Kuwait, followed by Cambodia, Myanmar, Japan and China, who mainly sought treatment related to bones, joints, their cardiovascular system, metabolism and dentistry.

The top five treatments generating the most earnings for hospitals were for cardiovascular issues, metabolism, cancer, bones and joints, and people's neurological system.

A Tourism Authority of Thailand survey in July and August on visitors' favourite activities while in the kingdom showed that most tourists enjoyed eating Thai food (90%), visiting massage parlours and spas (48%), going to the beach (48%), and visiting historical places (46%).

According to the BoT, foreign medical tourists spent 35,000 baht on average on treatments last year.

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