Thailand targets Saudi medical travellers

With the loss of Chinese and Russian tourists and medical tourists, Thailand is seeking new markets including Saudi Arabia.

The Tourism Ministry has stated its target is 500,000 Middle Eastern tourists by the end of 2022 and one million in 2023.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is planning a new marketing campaign for 2022 called “Visit Thailand Year 2022: Amazing New Chapters”. The campaign will promote 3 main types of tourism in Thailand: medical tourism, beaches and shopping.

Thailand will promote medical check-ups in Thailand for Saudi officials. Another Middle Eastern sources targeted include travellers from the United Arab Emirates.

Thailand has been pushed to open up, seek new countries, and increase urgent marketing spend as hospitals seek recovery in medical tourism, amid worries of losses of European, Russian and Chinese business.

Typical of local healthcare groups needing the return of medical tourism to recover profit is Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS), one of the largest hospital networks in the Asia-Pacific region, with 53 hospitals. The group offers medical care and treatment to both local and international patients.

In 2021, international patient revenues fell by 6% from a 2020 figure that was also affected by border closures. International revenue fell from 21% of the total to 18% of the total but this is misleading as Cambodian patients treated in the groups two Cambodian hospitals are regarded as international patients. In 2021, Middle East patient numbers fell by 30%. Expatriate patients living in Thailand went up 7% while Japanese and American ones each went up 4%.

Looking ahead to 2022 the group expects numbers and revenue to rise with returning fly-in medical tourists. The company is moving to value-based pricing to deliver better and more cost effective patient outcomes.