Thai medical tourism to increase in 2015

An increase in overseas patient numbers should lift earnings in Thailand’s health tourism sector this year, with double-digit growth forecast as service providers move to boost their profile and service offerings.

Medical tourism should generate earnings in excess of $3 billion in 2015, from income earned by private hospitals listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand according to Kasikorn Research Centre, a subsidiary of Kasikorn Bank. This represents revenue growth of up to 15% year-on-year.

The number of medical treatments provided to international tourists by Thai private hospitals is expected to reach 2.81million in 2015, up 10.2% year on year. This is not the number of medical tourists, as one person can have from one to twenty treatments even on one visit; and the numbers include a large number of local expatriates.

According to the report foreigners travelling to Thailand and expatriates currently living in the country will make a significant contribution to private health revenues.

In line with the growth, foreign investment in the Thai health sector is also increasing. Greater overseas interest, from Japan, Malaysia and Singapore in particular, should serve as a spur to locally based service providers, which will need to work harder to maintain their competitive edge in the market as the segment consolidates in a bid to expand its reach.

Some market leaders have been investing to reinforce their position in the market. Late last year, Bumrungrad International Hospital announced it expected revenue to grow by 10% in 2015, a result of expected increases in foreign as well as domestic patients. While continuing to focus on core overseas markets such as the Middle East, the US, and northern and central Asia, the hospital is planning to raise its profile by opening more referral offices in other countries. These include Myanmar, Indonesia and Cambodia, which are seen as markets with good potential in the medical tourism sector.

Though overall prospects for medical tourism are good, there are some potential problems. Economic problems in key markets such as several European countries and Japan could mean a slowing of the flow of patients from those traditional sources. Russian visitor numbers declined sharply late last year, coinciding with the fall in the rouble, and will fall sharply in 2015.

Increases in arrival numbers from other countries, along with a general rebound forecast for the tourism industry, are expected to offset downturns from individual markets. The growth in numbers is not guaranteed due to problems in target countries and the ever-present political risk in Thailand, which is still under military rule.