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Thailand might “lose its crown” as the region’s top destination for medical tourismif foreigners, who are looking for low-cost and quality healthcare, are frightened by the political unrest. Following the army’s coup last week, several governments have warned their citizens to think twice before traveling to Thailand, where political unrest could scare off tourists and potential medical tourism patients.

Among those who visited the country last year, about 2.5 million of people came for medical reasons, including spa and healthcare services, as data from the Department of Export Promotion have showed.

In 2013, Thailand earned US$4.31 billion in revenue from medical tourism. Over the past decade, the average growth has been 15 per cent a year, but the country is already facing decreasing numbers from China, where a large portion of its tourism business comes from top-end Bangkok hospital Bumrungrad, which competes against Singapore for medical tourism seekers, said that it experienced a 12 per cent drop in foreign inpatients in the first quarter and an 18 per cent fall in outpatients. Kenneth Mays, senior director at Bumrungrad, argued that the political situation can bring some medical tourists to postpone their trips for treatment.

Patients Beyond Borders, a U.S.-based website that offers consumers information about medical travel, said that, while hospitals in Phuket and other destinations are reporting downturns of 20-40 percent,  Bangkok is the epicenter of the unrest, which explains the decrease of medical visitors.

According to the Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, the country’s largest hospital group, in 2014 Thailand has registered a drop of more than 30 percent in patients from the Middle East and of 7 percent from the United States. This situation might cause Thailand to lose its market share to countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines and India.

The Philippines and South Korea are already seeing more medical tourists from China, Russia and the Middle East in particular. Singapore, with some of the best diagnostics and care in the world, represents also a threat to Thailand.

Because of the political crisis, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has cut its forecast for foreign arrivals this year to 26.3 million, which would be a five-year low, from 28 million. Any prolonged crisis will certainly make international patients rethink a trip to Thailand and consider other destinations until the situation improves.


The gLAWcal Team

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

(Source: HealthCareAsia)

This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.