New projects highlight Thailand?s reputation as a prime medical travel destination

?BANGKOK, August 5th? ? The? Publisher of Asian Publication Co., Mr. Chatree Niramitvijit (KHUN Wong ) also the head of the company?s Medical Travel Industry Improvement & Promotion Research Department recently announced the first of many projects to highlight Thailand?s reputation as a prime destination for medical travel.

Mr. Chatree Niramitvijit said the Research Department? is publishing Medica Tourism, a monthly magazine that supports the government?s efforts in promoting Thailand?s medical travel industry.? The Research Department, which also serves as a media watchdog for Thailand?s medical tourism industry.

An early start in transgender surgery placed Thailand at the forefront of the international medical travel market industry in Asia, with revenues growing at a double-digit rate. However, Thailand?s predominance in the billion-dollar market is being challenged by Singapore, Malaysia, India and the Philippines, says the US-based Global Healthcare Association.

?Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, India and the Philippines are major destinations in the Asian medical tourism market. Thailand is more popular among Western European medical tourists for cosmetic surgery. Singapore and India specialize in complex procedures with India having a cost advantage and Singapore a technology advantage,? says the 2009 Medical Tourism Market Report recently issued by Koncept Analytic.

As part of the Research Department long ?range program, he is in consulting with the Office of the Prime Minister of Thailand to ensure effective inter-agency communication, said Mr. Niramitvijit, a retired professional with a career comprising media companies such as the Bangkok Post, The Nation, Reader?s Digest, the Sing Sian Yit Pao and Asian integrated Media Company.? The Thai Premier?s strong commitment to the Thai medical travel industry is evident in Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva?s statements recently delivered in Japan, London, China, Saudi Arabia and Davos.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is highlighting medical tourism to revive Thailand?s tourism industry during his personal visits and roadshows at various countries around the world. He underscored the measures taken by his government such as waiving visa fees, reducing aircraft take-off and landing charges, lowering entrance fees to national parks and providing travel insurance for foreign visitors.

The Premier has recently visited Suvarnabhumi airport to stamp out problems which is ?causing immeasurable harm to the tourism industry? including pick-pocketing, extortion of tourists, dishonest taxi drivers, unlicensed tour guides and luggage theft. Within that week, 205 unlicensed taxi drivers and tour guides had been arrested and fined for operating illegally at the airport. The two companies handling passenger luggage checking and transport at the airport are instituting measures to prevent luggage theft.

?The government is also working on diversifying our tourism industry so that tourists can enjoy cultural excursions while, at the same time, being able to pursue other activities like spas, sports, medical check-ups and eco-tourism,? said Prime Minister Vejjajiva in a speech in Beijing in June last year.

Statistics released by the Tourism Authority of Thailand shows that visitor arrivals went up in June -July this year compared to the same period last year. Thailand?s tourist industry earns some 540 billion baht (about 15.4 million US$) each year, comprising over 6 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employing over 7 percent of its work force.

In 2010 ?we will welcome 14.5 million visitors and earned almost 15 billion USD in foreign exchange,? said T.A.T. Governor in a speech in Bangkok last week. ?We are developing standards for tourism-related businesses and showcasing Thailand as a world-class tourism hub, a centre for international conferences and medical tourism,? he said.

?Thailand has always attached great importance to the tourism industry, and in June last year, in the wake of the decline in global travels, the government declared tourism one of our national agenda,? The Prime Minister said in a speech in China in June last year.? The Thai government is also promoting medical tourism in the UAE, which already draws thousands of Arab visitors to the country.

?For frequent visitors of Thailand, I am sure that there will always be new and exciting destinations waiting for you to visit. Thailand is globally-considered to be a peaceful and friendly country, with a gentle culture that welcomes visitors. We take great pride in our hospitality, so please come and discover the fascinating way of life and culture of Thailand, and let us make your visit a most memorable occasion.?

Thailand, together with India and Singapore, currently dominate Asia?s medical travel market with a combined market share of around 90% , says India is predicted to become Thailand?s biggest competitor, with the potential to capture up to 25% of the region?s medical travel market by 2012. The Philippines, South Korea and the Medical City in the UAE are part of this growing market.


The Research Department?s move to energize Thailand?s hospital PR practitioners is strategic, says Publisher Mr. Niramitvijit.? ?They have information potential which is lying dormant,? he said.

Business mogul Niwat Kittichaiwong hailed the move as ?important? and a rich source for trade-level information that benefits not only Thailand?s businesses but also clients in the international market who seek quality information about the industry. Mr. Kittchaiwong, who heads the Bangkok Mediplex Center, said that the assembly ?recognizes the yet-untapped potential of Thailand?s PR professionals in the medical sector; they have the experience and they have a working knowledge of the industry not available elsewhere, and they have an enormous collective power ready to be tapped.?

Ms. Eun Ju Kim, Market Segment Manager of Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok says: ?Our hospital PR personnel look forward to helping revive the national economy by promoting Thailand as one of the world?s best medical travel destinations. We are ready to reveal the amazing range of advance medical services on offer in Thailand?s private and public hospitals.? [email protected]

In its publication, Thailand Investment Review February-March 2009, the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI) announced new government policies that ?directly and immediately assist the tourism industry.? Among these are advertising campaigns, measures to reduce tourism-related fees and service costs.

Medium-term plans include expansion of the tourism and service sectors ?by increasing the diversity of service businesses, adding value, enhancing competitiveness, and improving skilled labor in quality and language skills.

?The country has tremendous potential to serve as a center for international conferences, product exhibitions, and medical tourism, and the government is exploring how to maximize that potential.

?The government also plans to review all tourism-related laws to ensure that they are up to date and complementary,? said the BOI.

The medical travel industry in Thailand grew rapidly in recent years, more than the country?s GDP. ?Aside from being a much more popular tourist destination, medical costs in Thailand are lower than in Singapore. Health service prices in Thailand are five times less than in the US.

The medical travel sector is one of the few areas of the Asian market that continued growing throughout the global financial crisis. The market is driven by globalization, competitive health care service costs and treatments not available elsewhere ? a combination that that attracts patients worldwide. Revenue forecast for the Asian medical travel industry is at least 14% growth over the next four years.