During the epidemic, the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) is targeting nations in the same region or areas with a lower flight distance from Malaysia as its target market.
According to MHTC's recently appointed CEO Mohd Daud Mohd Arif , because some serious situations require immediate treatment, this aim is feasible to meet the needs of this healthcare group.
Tourists from China, Vietnam, and Myanmar are common in the region, although Indonesia has long been the primary source of medical tourists.
In China, Mohd Daud stated that MHTC is well aware of the market's enormous potential, which is why it has been focusing on the country's secondary and tertiary cities, where income levels have risen.
“Their desire to seek better medical services outside of China is even stronger. There is a lot of potential for them to come to Malaysia, especially in fertility treatment partly because they have lifted their one child policy and many of them would like to build a bigger family. They are looking at Malaysia as a solution,” he said.
“There are bigger parts of healthcare that Malaysia can provide. I know very clearly on the leisure tourism side, Malaysia has been promoted as a lung cleansing destination for tourists from China. They do come here to relax and rejuvenate before going back home.”
Beyond the short- and medium-haul sectors, he said, MHTC is casting its net as wide as possible, looking at new potential markets such as India and the Middle East, but these are still in the exploratory stage.
The travel restriction alone constitutes a significant danger, and after borders were closed, MHTC and its stakeholders encountered difficulty in growing this segment.
Malaysia is currently one of the most popular medical tourism destinations in the world, with both the commercial and public sectors participating.
With 60% of medical tourists coming from Indonesia, China is also one of the largest markets, followed by Australia and New Zealand.
Due to a dip in healthcare travel activity, Malaysia welcomed 1.22 million visitors in 2019, resulting in a 17 percent revenue rise of RM1.7 billion in hospital collections, whereas 2020 witnessed a decline in anticipation of RM780 million.
Oncology, fertility treatments, and cardiology, particularly paediatric cardiology, were the top three services sought by medical tourists, according to the MHTC.
Mohd Daud said the pandemic is a wake-up call for the industry to be ready to ensure sustainability.
“I would think that before Covid-19, the word sustainability might be taken lightly, but now I think people understand the severe impact the industry is facing. We need to come up with innovative solutions so that we can be ready to handle future shocks,” he opined.
Despite everything, he acknowledged that Covid-19 paves the way for digital readiness or at least pushing towards digitalisation.
“How far are we moving towards digitalisation within this environment? We understand that it is nothing new, even without Covid-19, we should be moving in that direction, otherwise we will be left behind. The silver lining of Covid-19 is that it accelerates this process.”
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