The island-state of Penang offers another tourism product besides its sumptuous street food, heritage architecture and sandy beaches. Located off the northwestern coast of Malaysia, the prosperous state now offers affordable health tourism to the world.
It aims to position itself as a top notch medical tourism destination in the region, boldly competing with other established key players like its northern neighbour Thailand and Singapore to the south – all known for their quality healthcare tourism.
“We have very good medical care and doctors and we are trying to promote medical tourism. We are promoting on social media and also working with Tourism Malaysia to see what kind of campaigns can help attract more tourists to Penang.
“In Penang, we speak a lot of languages and in terms of accommodation it is cheaper than Singapore,” Yoon Pauline, Penang Global Tourism manager told The Post.
Popular medical tourism
Medical tourism is a booming business in Malaysia. Penang, on the other hand, wants to seize a slice of the growing pie.
Last year, about 1.2 million foreigners visited Malaysia for medical treatment and contributed RM1.5 billion in revenue. According to media reports, Penang’s healthcare sector alone generated $165 million revenue in 2017.
The time is ripe. More Asean countries begin to tap into the emerging health tourism industry as per capita income rises along with economic prosperity plus the growing awareness of quality medical treatment overseas.
These factors create strong demand for better medical care, mainly from the fast-expanding middle class in Asean - home to some 630 million people.
According to CIMB Asean Research Institute’s “AEC Blueprint 2025 Analysis” report published two years ago, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are popular destinations for medical tourists – mostly patients crisscrossing the Asean region for medical treatment.
“Indonesia has been the largest contributor to the region’s overall medical tourists, spending around $11.5 billion annually, mostly in Malaysia. This is due to the fact that the quality of Indonesia’s medical treatment and technology are lagging behind that of Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand,” said the report.
Ideally located in Asean and with well-developed air and road connectivity, affordable treatment, well-trained medical professionals, good medical infrastructure and state-of-the-art medical equipment have certainly contributed to Penang’s medical tourism growth story in recent years.
“We provide same day medical reports to patients. There are resident doctors in hospitals and doctors are trained overseas. There are direct flights to Penang and travel time is short. (Healthcare) is affordable and its value for money,” added Yoon.
Penang offers a catalogue of critical medical services, ranging from surgical treatments in orthopedics, ophthalmology, cardiology and cardiovascular to plastic, cosmetic and aesthetic restoration.
Malaysia will promote Visit Malaysia 2020 that aims to woo 30 million tourists and earn $25 billion in revenue.
Last year, 25.8 million tourists visited the country. This campaign is likely to further boost Penang’s ambition to woo more medical tourists next year.