Philippines plans to promote wellness and medical tourism

The Department of Tourism hopes to relaunch the Philippines as a wellness and medical destination for 2019. Many problems still exist however, including a lack of meaningful data on medical tourist flows.

The Department of Tourism is working with the Department of Health for the Philippine Medical Tourism Programme to promote Philippines’ medical tourism. Current marketing is rather out of date with modern trends as it still emphasises the beaches and other tourist offerings, cheap prices and the ability to speak English.

It is hoping that key destinations including Cebu will actively support the campaign, citing the province as home to globally recognized hospitals, medical schools, hotels and resorts (see IMTJ news on why Cebu is currently struggling to attract medical tourists).

Government is finding it hard to persuade medical institutions to get their facilities accredited internationally and for the accommodation sector to integrate wellness and other healthy options, including Halal, into their products and services.

The Department of Tourism has launched a six-month medical visa as part of the plan to improve the country’s medical tourism. The medical visa will be issued to tourists whose main purpose for travel to the Philippines is to seek medical treatment.

One of the country’s problems is that even official figures have such a poor grasp of existing numbers that the estimates range from 80,000 to 250,000.

But even then, these figures are of international patients, including overseas Filipino workers, expats, and retirees; and include partners and families accompanying medical travellers.

A joint statement from the Department of Tourism, Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry’s Board of Investments identifies five segments in the international medical travel sector:

  • Tourists who get ill
  • Expatriates already living in the country
  • Health tourists for spa and other wellness services
  • Medical tourists seeking medical tests or health checks
  • Medical tourists seeking surgery or cosmetic surgery or dental care

Most in the latter two categories are Filipinos who live and/or work abroad, who combine treatment with a family visit.

View the IMTJ’s report on the latest medical tourism efforts in the Philippines.