THE Department of Tourism (DOT) will boost its promotion of medical tourism in the country, as the recent Covid-19 pandemic further put into focus the wealth of knowledge and skills of local medical frontliners.
In a news statement, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said, “We see so much untapped potential in the health and wellness industry. With world-class hospitals and facilities, skilled doctors and nurses, and the Filipino brand of hospitality, the Philippines is poised to become an attractive destination for medical tourism.”
She added, the DOT is currently implementing measures to further develop the country as a medical tourism destination “in a calibrated approach, including the development of an internal ecosystem and network of facilities in the country to accommodate concerns and issues surrounding this tourism product.”
As of 2020-2021, the Philippines was ranked no. 24 out of 46 destinations in the Medical Tourism Index, coming after other Asia-Pacific neighbors like Singapore (no. 2); Japan (no. 3); India (no. 10); South Korea (no. 14); Taiwan (no. 16); and Thailand (no. 17).
Several research studies have shown, among the challenges in boosting the medical tourism industry in the Philippines are the high cost of airfare and hotel rooms, and the non-transparency in cost of treatments. Popular dermatologist Dr. Reena Corona also told BusinessMirror that the cost of cosmetic treatments in other cities, like Bangkok, for instance, is “more than” 30 percent cheaper than what doctors charge in the Philippines.
She added, it was also “less expensive to go on tours, shopping, and eat the delicious local food” in Bangkok, the Philippines’s main competitor in Southeast Asia for medical and wellness treatments.
As such, most of those who come to the Philippines for medical tourism or wellness visits are balikbayans (homecoming Filipinos) who depend on their relatives and friends for reference on doctors and clinics who will handle their treatments.
While the DOT accredits hospitals, clinics, and spas for medical and wellness tourism, it is on a voluntary basis as these are considered secondary tourism establishments. According to the DOT website, there are only 14 accredited medical and spa facilities in the National Capital Region alone. These include Asian Hospital, Manila Doctors, and The Medical City.
Medical tourism is defined as organized travel across international borders to avail of medical treatment of some form, which may or may not be available in the travelers home country. These include dental treatment, neurological treatment, and cardiovascular treatment, while wellness tourism covers visits to destination spas for non-invasive healing therapy.
Recent market research published by Valuates Reports indicated that the global medical tourism market accounted for US$104.68 billion in 2019 and projected to reach $273.72 billion by 2027. This means compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.8 percent from 2019 to 2027 in terms of value.
“The medical tourism market is growing due to factors such as affordability and cost-effectiveness, immediate treatment, travel opportunities, availability of medical experts, no or limited insurance coverage, and availability of advanced equipment,” said the company.
“Furthermore, the global medical tourism market is driven by the affordability and accessibility of high-quality healthcare treatments, as well as aid from tourist departments and local governments,” it added.
Valuates projected the Asia Pacific region to grow at the highest CAGR from 2019 to 2027.