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Thailand remains top medical tourism hub, but faces new challenges

Despite growing challenges from other attractive medical hub countries in recent years, Thailand has retained its premium status as medical tourism hub.

Aishwarya Gupta

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Bumrungrad hospital bankok

Despite growing challenges from other attractive medical hub countries in recent years, Thailand has retained its premium status as medical tourism hub.

Bumrungrad International Hospital is one such institution. Find out how it continues to draw international patients in this report. Bumrungrad International Hospital, operated since 1989, is the largest private hospital in Southeast Asia. Located in the heart of Bangkok, the hospital serves over a million patients annually. Over 520,000 are international patients, including thousands of expatriates who live in Bangkok and nearby countries, plus visitors from some 190 countries around the world.

The reason the hospital opted to open its services for international patients goes back to the 1997 Asian economic crisis, which resulted in a very weak local economy. The hospital had targeted a premium market, in which during that period, and even wealthy Thais were hit by the crisis. However, the hospital was surprised by the rising number of international patients, most of them coming by word of mouth.

“I think a word of mouth gets out. At first they came as tourists, then they might have some accidents and they came to hospital. They were surprised to have this kind of medical service. When they go back home, they tell their friends and maybe there are some direct flights. So people start saying this is very interesting,”

said Kenneth Mays, Bumrungrad Hospital marketing director. As the hospital’s reputation on medical tourism hub became established, it has opened international representative offices in Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam to facilitate their clients’ medical journeys.

“A lot of these countries, the economies are growing but the medical infrastructure lags behind. It takes 20 years to get a good doctor and good medical infrastructure. So in the interim, they can use Thailand for their serious concerns.”

said the hospital marketing director. But Thailand is not the only country which positions itself as a medical tourism hub. Hospital Marketing Director Kenneth Mays said Singapore and India have always been rivals, with newcomers like Malaysia, Turkey, South Korea and Costa Rica. But he believes Thailand will remain the top player in the industry and benefit from the integration of the ASEAN Economic Community.

“Thailand has a competitive advantage in the world for medical treatment. ASEAN has Thailand as a leader in medical tourism, as well as Malaysia and Singapore. So I think ASEAN can promote a region as medical destination and then we have countries within ASEAN like Indonesia where a lot of people need a lot of medical treatment outside their country. We can make it easier for people to cross border and make patients come here to Thailand,” said Kenneth Mays. (MCOT online news)

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