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A Call for Greater Efforts to Develop Thailand as a Medical Tourism Hub

April 2, 2014 Destination Thailand No Comments Email Email

It has been suggested that Thailand step up efforts to develop the country as a medical tourism hub and that it cooperate with other ASEAN countries in promoting medical tourism.
The suggestion was made by the National Economic and Social Advisory Council in its proposal submitted to the Cabinet for consideration.

The proposal seeks to include the development of Thailand as a medical hub in the national agenda. In this regard, a national committee should be formed, headed by the Prime Minister, or a responsible minister. The committee should comprise representatives from the public and private sectors, entrepreneurs in health and tourism-related organizations, and media agencies.

The advisory council suggested that the Thai government enhance cooperation with other governments in the region to further develop medical tourism. Moreover, authorities concerned should consider granting visa extensions to foreign senior citizens, in addition to six countries already allowed, seeking a long-term stay in Thailand for medical services.

The Thai government in January 2013 introduced a regulation for the granting of visa extensions from 30 days to 90 days to nationals of six Middle Eastern countries. These countries include the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Thailand also plans to extend this privilege to other ASEAN countries, as well, when the ASEAN Community is in place in late 2015.

The National Economic and Social Advisory Council also called for creating a database for medical tourism products to provide useful information for tourists. The information should be categorized into five major groups – spa services and beauty, Thai food and herbs, spiritual meditation, tourism, sports, and cultural activities, and medical care.

The target groups in the medical tourism program include senior citizens and long-stay tourists. The advisory council suggested that comprehensive health centers be established, with physicians and interpreters assisting foreign customers. Moreover, the target groups should also be extended to cover celebrities, and those in niche markets, such as shoppers, honeymooners, golfers, filmmakers, and MICE visitors.

In another effort to help boost medical tourism, the Government has been urged to promote specialized services and provide greater opportunities for quality products in related fields, such as traditional Thai medicine, organic agriculture, medicinal plants, spas, and Thai games for health promotion.

Medical tourism generated 52 billion baht in revenue for Thailand in 2008, 58 billion baht in 2009, and 65 billion baht in 2010. The earnings rose to 97.8 billion baht in 2011 and 121.6 billion baht in 2012.

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