Asia medical tourism catches a cold from COVID travel curbs

By TIN Media | Medical Tourism Published 6 months ago on 8 May 2021
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BANGKOK:

Leading Southeast Asian hospital operators saw their profits plummet last year as coronavirus travel restrictions squeezed cash cow services aimed at medical tourists.

Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, which operates nearly 50 hospitals primarily in Thailand, reported a 54% drop in net profit on a 22% drop in revenue.

As one of Southeast Asia's largest hospital chains, BDMS generates roughly 30% of its revenue from overseas patients who travel to its facilities for treatment. However, due to travel restrictions, the company reported a 43 percent drop in such patients last year, primarily from the Middle East, Australia, and Myanmar.

Malaysia's IHH Healthcare saw its net profit fall by 48 percent on a 10 percent drop in revenue. The organization operates 80 hospitals in ten countries, including Malaysia and Singapore.

According to the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council, travel restrictions were responsible for up to a 75% decrease in Malaysian medical tourism revenues last year.

According to the U.K.-based Business Research Company, the global market for medical tourism will have shrunk 48 percent to approximately $19.8 billion in 2020. Asian hospitals have been particularly hard hit.

Hospitals in Asia and other emerging regions have attracted international patients by providing advanced medical care at lower costs than in developed countries. Both the private and public sectors have collaborated to provide additional benefits, such as luxury hotel-style accommodations and easier access to medical visas.

According to a 2019 calculation by Doctors Without Borders, Thailand, and Malaysia, which are home to large-scale hospital chains, ranked among the world's top five countries in terms of patient numbers.

However, as the coronavirus pandemic continues, medical tourism is expected to suffer a prolonged chill. BDMS and IHH are providing telemedicine and other alternatives, but it is unclear whether these efforts will be sufficient to offset the blow.


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