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A Major Boost for Phuket to Become a Medical Tourism Hub

April 29, 2011

Often dubbed the pearl of the Andaman Sea, the island province of Phuket has high potential for health tourism development. Both the public and private sectors are joining hands in promoting Phuket as a medical tourism hub.

The Government has a policy to promote health tourism to enable it to become competitive in the world market and bring in more foreign exchange, without affecting the country’s main domestic healthcare and medical services.

In response to this policy, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports has come up with a plan to develop Thailand as a medical hub of Asia. Emphasis is placed on four areas, namely medical treatment, health promotion, Thai traditional and alternative medicine, and herbal and health products. About 1.5 million medical tourists visit Thailand each year. While they are receiving health services, they may also take the opportunity to enjoy the natural environment and multitude of tourism activities, as Thailand is renowned for not only its culture and traditions but also its natural beauty.

Because of its readiness in terms of modern, up-to-date medical facilities that meet international standards, experienced personnel, and well-prepared services – blended with Thai hospitality – Phuket is one of the target areas poised to receive a major boost to become one of the medical tourism hubs in this region. It is recognized as one of the most well-known tourist destinations and welcomes more than five million visitors a year. The island has already been put on the world map as a desirable recreational center famous for its natural beauty.

According to a strategy in the Phuket Provincial Development Plan for 2010-2013, Phuket will be developed into a medical hub of Asia, with international medical services and a health spa. There are now seven public and private hospitals, with 1,051 beds, and 21 health stations in the province, in addition to many clinics and drugstores.

The largest public hospital in Phuket, with about 500 beds, Vachira Phuket Hospital, under the Ministry of Public Health, has a total of 1,600 personnel. It has become a center of medical services at both secondary and tertiary levels. About 2,000 people seek outpatient services on a daily basis at this hospital. Bangkok Hospital Phuket is the province’s largest international private hospital, with 200 beds. It also has many advanced specialties, such as the Heart Center, Hip and Knee Center, Dental Center, and Aesthetic Center for plastic surgery. Many tourists come to Phuket for plastic surgery, as the province has advanced surgery techniques.

The number of foreign clients seeking medical tourism services in Thailand is on the rise, mainly from Japan, the United States, and countries in South Asia. Other medical tourists are from China, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Middle Eastern countries. Medical tourism generated 52 billion baht in revenue for Thailand in 2008, 58 billion baht in 2009, and 65 billion baht in 2010. It is expected that by 2015, the figure will increase to 100 billion baht.

Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha this afternoon met representatives from 19 major news agencies from around the world as part of the Thai government’s drive to boost medical tourism revenues to 100 billion baht (US$3.3bn) by year 2015.

Among the representatives visiting the governor were journalists, photo-journalists and cameramen from Fox News and Xinhua as well as state-news agencies VNA from Vietnam and Bernama from Malaysia. Others hailed from as far as Norway.

The media troupe arrived in Phuket today from Bangkok for a two-day familiarization tour of the medical services and wellness treatments available on the island.

Governor Tri took the opportunity to introduce the group to what he called “vacation plus”.

“People can come to Phuket for much more than a holiday. They can undergo medical treatments or enjoy our spas. There’s so much more here that they can do than just go to the beach,” he said.

The media tour is just one of many the national government is hosting. Last month a similar media tour went to Chiang Mai. Another one next month is scheduled to visit Chanthaburi and in June another media tour group will visit the three border provinces in the South.

Phuket features prominently in the government’s national plan to develop the country’s competitiveness in the medical tourism world market

Thailand has great potential for becoming a medical hub of Asia because of many advantages. For instance, its service charges are reasonable. There are a number of medical experts in various fields. The country is equipped with modern medical equipment and can offer full-cycle health services. Its efficient and standard services are also well-recognized. Situated in the heart of the Southeast Asian mainland, Thailand can be reached easily from other countries in the region.

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