STNEWS::: The role of tourism industry is significant as one of the most rapidly growing industries in the world. Health is now considered as one of the key values in our life. Health tourism is commonly known as the combination of tourism and health. According to Mary (2014), when people travel for health treatments such as specialist treatments, cosmetic surgery, regular heath care etc. such a person is recognised as a health tourist, and such a trip is called health travel, and the activities include hospitality related activities, cultural experiences, and health care services is known as health tourism.
High quality health care service with lower cost is among the main reasons health tourism industry has seen incredible development with revenue expected to increase to $200 billion by 2020 (Revathi and Rani, 2019). Mooter (2017) stated that in 2016, between 105 to 120 million health tourists travelled abroad to seek health care services and this number is expected to grow 10 to 14 percent annually by 2020. Wong and Musa (2012) list down several countries around the world that actively offer health tourism such as Cuba, Costa Rica, Hungary, Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, Jordan, India, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore. Over the past decade, Asia has become a top favourite health tourism destination for people from all across the world. The incredible development of health tourism in Asian Countries in recent decades can be associated to the rising interests for high quality health care, increasing health costs, and long waiting time to attain the services have made it difficult for tourists to access health care services (Na et al., 2017). Therefore, tourist patients from developed countries such as the US, Canada, and Europe consider health care services in less developed countries where economic benefits are increased. A spokesman in 2014 reported Asia as one of the first regions to offer reasonable and high-quality health care services for tourist patients. According to Nabeela Khan (2019), right from liver transplants and bariatric surgeries to dental detailing and botox, more and more people are turning to Asia. A report by Pacific Prime Website (2020) delivers a comprehensive assessment of the fast-evolving health tourism countries in Asia. The top 5 countries covered are Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand in Southeast Asia; South Korea in East Asia; and India in South Asia.
Because of its high quality care and qualified health specialists, Malaysia has been known as the centre of health tourism in Southeast Asia (Mujani et al., 2012). In this sense, as stated by Cham (2016), Malaysia Health care Travel Council (MHTC) was established to actively represent Malaysia as the hub of health tourism globally and in Southeast Asia particularly. Malaysia is known as one of the best health tourism destinations around the world, where several internationally certified private hospitals, modern facilities, short waiting time, low health cost, and political satiability can be effective on development of health tourism industry (Mujani et al., 2012). It’s important to remember as in neighbouring Singapore, many of hospitals’ staff in Malaysia speak English as a near-native tongue, and may be trained in other European languages too.
Newcomers to the world of health tourism may be surprised to learn that so many patients choose to take their health needs to Singapore. Because of its cleanliness, Singapore is a close competitor of Malaysia, Thailand, and India for offering health tourism services (Wong and Musa, 2012). Although health care is more expensive than competitors, Singapore draws health tourists with its short waiting time, international certified health technology and services, improved credibility of health services, better availability for health tourists, and English-speaking health staff (iGATE Research, 2017).
In 2004 Thailand set out a strategic policy to become the medical hub of Asia and since then it has become a world leader in health services. A report by Thailand Board of Investment (2018) considered that Thailand’s health services benefit from first-rate technological foundation with balancing quality compared developed countries, still at a fraction of the cost. Many private Thai hospitals have received significant praise for their high-level offerings as well. The majority of tourist patients select Thailand as the health destination for cosmetic surgeries (Wong and Musa, 2012). In addition to this, tourist patients frequently take advantage by organising a vacation tour while visiting the country.
India promotes its physicians and surgeons as being not only world class but also trained internally through the country’s renowned health universities and research centres (Pacific Prime Website, 2020). Some experts say that in the near future, India will become a clear leader in health tourism across Asia and around the globe, mostly due to the cost effectiveness of care within the country.
South Korea is one of the most popular health tourism destinations in the world. South Korea has been actively attracting foreign patients with cutting-edge health technologies and services during the past decade (Won So, 2020). Whereas patients seeking serious health treatments tend to turn to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and India, those in search of cosmetic procedures look toward South Korea. This East Asian country actively promotes itself as a destination for plastic surgery, and has even invented an operational technique it calls tip plasty: in which the size and shape of the tip of the patient’s nose is surgically altered (MTM Editorial Team, 2020).
Apart from the considered countries, Iran in Southwest Asia might jump to mind because of credible surgeons and physicians, high-tech medicine and diverse specializations. Iran is a four-season country, which means in different corners of the country you can experience various climates at the same time. In addition to this, Iranians are famous for their authentic hospitality and the love of foreigners. As expressed in TehranTimes (2019) report, Iran has set its goals to go beyond its yearly health travellers to around 2 million by 2025. A spokesman stated that 90 percent of foreign patients in Iran are from Afghanistan, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and other countries around the Persian Gulf. The major point to select Iran as the health destination is the cost of health care services in Iran, which is approximately a third of similar health care services in countries like US, Canada, and Europe. The upcoming article discusses the term of health tourism in Iran.
Cham, T. H. (2016). A Study of Medical Tourists’ Behavioural Intention in Relation to Hospital Brand Image and the Mediating Effects of Perceived Value and Trust (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://eprints.utar.edu.my/2187/1/Cham_Tat_Huei_12UKD00017.pdf.
iGate Research. (2017, June 5). Singapore Medical Tourism Market and Forecast to 2022 [Research Report]. Retrieved from http://igateresearch.com/FullReportDetail.php?p=89.
Retrieved from: https://www.brinknews.com/asia/medical-tourism-in-asia-pacificgrowing-rapidly/.
MTM Editorial Team. (2020, June 12). South Korea: Asia’s Medical Tourism Hotspot [Research Report]. Retrieved from https://medicaltravelmarket.com/news/south-korea-medical-tourism-hotspot-in- asia.
TehranTimes (2019, December 31). Find out why medical tourism is to be big business in Iran [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/443582/Find-out-why-medical- tourism-is-to-be-big-business-in-Iran
Thailand Board of Investment (2018, October 4). Here’s Thailand’s plan to transform into Asia’s next big medical hub [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://qz.com/1397519/heres-thailands-plan-to- transform-itself-into-asias next-big-medical-hub/
Won So (2020, May 19). Medical tourism in South Korea - Statistics and Facts [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/topics/6382/medical-tourism-in-south-korea/.
Wong, K. M., and Musa, G. (2012). Medical Tourism in Asia: Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and India. In M. Hall (Ed.), Medical Tourism: The Ethics, Regulation, and Marketing of Health Mobility (pp. 167-186). New York, NY: Routledge.
Dr. Mohammad Ali Moslehifar November 15, 2020