The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has teamed up with the International Medical Travel Association (IMTA) to promote and develop healthcare travel and tourism across the region. The two associations have signed a memorandum of understanding that seeks to collaborate in such areas as data and trends analysis for the healthcare travel sector as well as exploring opportunities for joint membership.
Medical tourism is recognised as one of the industry’s high value sectors, with medical tourists tending to stay for longer durations with the associated increase in local market spend. Ruben Toral of IMTA, says, “Asia is a well developed medical tourism region with excellent hospitals and tourism infrastructure. Working with PATA helps us to bring the healthcare and travel industries together in a more cohesive manner.”IMTA is based in Singapore and the vast majority of members are based in Asia-Pacific. Formed 50 years ago with headquarters in Bangkok, PATA is a global organisation with 2500 members comprising 42 member destinations within the Asia-Pacific region, plus airlines, hotel groups, tour operators and travel agents. PATA is a membership association acting as a catalyst for the responsible development of the Asia Pacific travel and tourism industry.
PATA member online booking service Agoda confirms the positive effect medical tourism has on the hotel industry. Michael Kenny of Agoda remarks, “We are definitely seeing a rise in medical tourism to Asia. For instance, our hotel partners in Bangkok such as the Ariyasomvilla and FuramaXclusive, which are both located very close to Bumrungrad Hospital, confirm that 30 – 40% of their guests are either medical tourists or their family members and friends. Following this trend, Agoda has made improvements to our site to make it easier to identify hotels which are near to popular hospitals, as well as negotiate long-stay discounts at a number of these hotels.”
Pomchai Chairungsinun of FuramaXclusive Sukhumvit adds, “Medical tourists make up about 30 to 35% of our clientele each year with June, July and August being our busiest months. The majority of patients usually have families visiting and will therefore request two to three rooms. Medical tourism is highly beneficial for us, as guests will generally stay for at least a week during their checkups and treatments. Our close proximity to Bumrungrad Hospital is a big bonus for visitors to the hospital.” In Malaysia, G Hotel and Berjaya Georgetown Hotel in Penang have begun promoting themselves as medical tourist-friendly hotels, taking advantage of their close proximity to Gleneagles Medical Center and Penang Adventist Hospital. In Singapore, many hospitals are located in districts with many nearby hotels.
U.N. World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) says the demand for international tourism has deteriorated, and continues to deteriorate, due to the economic recession. The impact is felt heavily in the Asia-Pacific region with tourist arrivals declining in Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Macao and China. The only exception is South Korea, where tourism and medical tourism are both increasing. With tourism numbers expected to dip for the next three years, PATA and IMTA see medical tourism as one way of increasing visitor numbers.