Beyond healthcare, trust Thailand for medical tourism

Thailand’s tourism as a major industrial sector without alternative

Post-pandemic world: Thailand’s tourism sector has been severely damaged by the pandemic and it is open whether Thailand-holidays, as we know them, will exist in the future. The season for cheap vacation trips may be over for a long time. Thailand-typical holiday pleasures may be a thing of the past.

The land of smile is looking for a way into the high price range. This approach is correct, it serves as a side-effect also ecological purposes, but it can’t fully compensate for the economic power of international mass tourism. Neither can domestic tourism fill this gap. Further developments are, therefore, needed to strengthen the tourism sector. 

Medical tourism: This is not the time for sensitivities and restraint. Measures that were unthinkable before the coronavirus crisis should now be tackled proactively. This concerns, for example, Thailand’s opening up to licensed casinos, which have contributed to economic success in neighboring countries for decades. But this also applies to the expansion and focus on medical tourism. Medical tourism has to be developed from a profitable niche market to a booming industry.

Beyond Healthcare, Trust Thailand: Thailand as a preferred location for medical tourism 

Thailand’s stance: Medical Tourism is decades old but has not been seen as an important factor within the tourism sector or in tourism income. Before the outbreak, the country already had a solid market share in medical and wellness, with 3.2 million international travelers and THB 45 billion total income in 2018.  A sophisticated healthcare system, universal healthcare coverage, and robust public health consciousness have been the foundation. Cost advantage, high-quality medical services, attentive care of medical staff, and unique wellness services have been in the past the unique selling point advantage and there is no reason that this should change in the post-pandemic world.

Three advantages: Years ago European patients traveled across the border to have medical treatment or for their cosmetic surgeries, which typically included a hotel stay and an excursion. Traditionally, patients travel across-borders because of (i) availability: treatment is not available in their home country. (ii) costs: Treatment is too expensive in their home country and not everybody has medical insurance or the medical insurance does not pay for elective treatment, and (iii) speed: There is a long waiting list to get treatment in their home country. Bangkok is the go-to city to avoid all these disadvantages, but ventures in Phuket, Samui, and Hua Hin have their own advantages.

Holistic approach: Thailand is an excellent place for medical tourism: trained doctors/specialists, dedicated nurses, friendly staff, hospitals with international standards, up-to-date medical equipment. Added to all this is a very important factor that family members can stay with the patient. A warm climate, certified spas, and health resorts will support the recuperation of the patient before returning home. If needed, immigration will issue special long-stay visas for patients that have to overstay the normal tourist visa. It is more than helpful that  Thailand is known to have and had a good grip on the covid-19 outbreak. This is a great opening for patients to feel comfortable returning to Thailand. Conditions for foreign patients should be convenient instead of adding stress to already sick people. This also applies to the financial side.

 

Business opportunities for foreign investors and Thailand’s hospitality industries

Thailand’s healthcare industry consists of 370 private hospitals, 50 of which are accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) global standard.  The driving force of Thailand’s hospital tourism had in the past been Samitivej Hospital Group and Bangkok Hospital Group. Their hospitals have the capacity to take on new patients and their hygiene provisions are up to international standards. The Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Ministry of Tourism & Sports, the Tourism Council of Thailand, together with the Thai Travel Agency Association are a perfect fit and complementary service provider.

Hotel and villa quarantine: The first batch of 1,700 medical tourists come from 17 countries, including Myanmar (478), Laos (477), Vietnam (39), China (65), the United Arab Emirates (223), Oman (187), Kuwait (137), Qatar (95) and Saudi Arabia (14). They would have to arrive by air to ensure effective disease control. Accommodation will be provided by hotels with the Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration (SHA) certificates and the “Well Hotel” standard. If they were properly handled during their 14-day quarantine-treatment at hospitals, hotels, or – starting in August 2020 – in villa quarantine, they could then go anywhere in the country. 

Participating quarantine hotels: Movenpick Wellness BDMS Resort Hotel, Qiu Hotel, The Idle residenc, Grand Richmond Hotel , Royal Benja Hotel, Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel, Grande Centerpoint Hotel Sukhumvit 55, Amara Hotel, The Kinn Bangkok hotel,  Siam Mandarina Hotel, TwoThree Hotel, Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort, Tango Hotel, Amari Buriram United Hotel 

Ten areas: Thailand currently promotes ten areas of the medical and wellness services at the global level namely regenerative and anti-aging sciences, alternative medicine, cardio science, musculoskeletal, dental clinic, In Vitro fertilization, cancer treatment, surgeries, ophthalmology (cataract) and precision medicine. To support the medical industry’s ecosystem in Thailand’s special economic zone of Eastern Economic Corridor, the BOI is also offering incentives to assemblers and manufacturers in medical food and food supplement, medical robotics or automation, electronic control and measurement for medical devices, digital medical services, lab and clinical research facilities, standard certification testing and specialized medical care.

Alternative therapies: Outside the conventional, “Western” medical treatments, focus are alternative therapies, lifestyle treatments apart from mainstream medicine, and the whole spectrum of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Acupuncture, reflexology, chiropractic treatments, Thai herbal medicine, and homeopathy provide wellness and complementary sick treatment. Balancing energy, cleaning the body of toxins, and boosting the immune system make the difference.

Professional services from Bangkok for Thailand’s medical tourism sector

PUGNATORIUS Ltd. is the Bangkok-based specialist provider of transactional legal and tax advice on foreign investments in Thailand’s manufacturing and service industries as well as property acquisitions and developments. The law firm provides new concepts and a fresh view of Thailand’s tourism sector. It monitors and assists in the transition phase into the post-pandemic world.

CoronaAlliance: As a founding member of the CoronaAlliance, the law firm advises on the legal implications of the Coronavirus outbreak as well as on tax planning opportunities. It also provides consulting on short-term and long-term measures to avoid or mitigate the damage to companies, individuals, and institutions. 

Medical tourism is embedded in Thailand’s complex regulatory framework. The Bangkok law firm advises and assists on investment opportunities, governmental investment promotion by the Board of Investment, and accompanies foreign FDI ventures.  

Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration (SHA) certificates and the “Well Hotel” standard: The law firm advises and assists hotels to successfully apply for the permission to accommodate medical tourists during their quarantine period.


Disclaimer: This low-resolution high-level outlook constitutes neither legal advice nor an attorney-client relationship. Protect your medical tourism venture in paradise.

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