Medical travel rebounds to Penang, Malaysia

Mr Chow Kon Yeow, Chief Minister of Penang, Malaysia has recently stated that, with international borders reopening, revenue for medical tourism to Penang increased from RM66 million (US$15m) in 2021, to RM285 million (US$64.7m) in 2022.

The Minister announced these figures while at a video launch at the Penang Centre for Medical Tourism (PMED), which included a signing of the Protocol of Medical Tourism collaboration with low cost airline PT Citilink Indonesia.

He stated that the 2022 value was just under 50% of what Penang earned in 2019 from medical tourism, and that in the first 11 months of 2022, Penang welcomed 144,975 international medical arrivals, of which Indonesia contributed 54%, followed closely by Bangladesh and India.

According to the PMED, approximately 50% of Malaysia’s medical tourism receipts are being generated in Penang, which would equate to nearly 480,000 medical tourists, generating RM730 million (US$166m) in revenue in 2019.

The Centre has a vision to make Penang a Medical City which will include hospitals, manufacturers of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, teaching hospitals and nursing colleges.

Malaysia has emerged as a strong competitor in the global health and medical tourism sector. Given the potential of medical tourism as a foreign exchange earner, the Malaysian government has taken a series of proactive measures to enhance Malaysia as a preferred health tourism destination.

Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) Chief Executive Officer, Mohd Daud Mohd Arif, recently said healthcare travel revenue dropped from RM1.7billion (US$0.4b)  in 2019 to RM777million (US$176m) and RM585million (US$133m) in 2020 and 2021 respectively, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The third quarter of 2022 recoded a total revenue to date of RM726million (US$165m).  The target for 2022 was RM1billon (US$0.23b).

Guided by the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Industry Blueprint 2021-2025, the country’s medical travel sector is in a rebuild phase, focusing on curative and preventive treatments as well as several niche branding initiatives in cardiology, oncology, fertility, and dental treatments, plus premium wellness offerings.  Malaysia Healthcare has identified Indonesia, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar as core markets for healthcare travellers.  It is also raising the country’s profile in secondary markets including Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore and Australia.

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