This year's THE Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) will focus on improving access to healthcare travel bubbles, prioritising safety measures.
Its acting CEO Nik Yazmin Nik Azman currently said that commercial airlines cannot bring medical tourists into the country. Instead, either chartered ferries, flights, or medical evacuation are required.
“In line with that, we are working very closely with airlines and hospitals to make this process easier and to enable chartered flights to come in more regularly while reducing cost,” she said during the virtual “BizTalks with MHTC: Creating New Opportunities for Medical Tourism” webinar.
According to Nik Yazmin, medical tourists began to enter the country by the medical bubble on 1 July last year, but they did so in very small number.
“Last year, we had about 100 people came in through this channel with very tight standard operating procedures.
“We have had so many inquiries but unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate them because of restrictions,” she said.
Nik Yazmin added that the industry would only recover after reopening borders and that herd immunity would thus be reached promptly.
“We need to look at the vaccine rollout for both Malaysians within the country and medical tourists who are coming in.
“This is to ensure both sides remain safe and free from the virus. The demand is definitely there; it is more about enabling the process,” she said.
Currently, Malaysia is one of the world's leading medical and public tourism destinations.
Indonesia still makes up 60% of the majority of medical tourists, while China, with Australia and New Zealand, is also one of the biggest markets.
In 2019, Malaysia received 1.22 million visitors, with an increase of 17 percent in hospital receipts of RM1.7 billion, while the anticipated decrease of RM780 million was seen in 2020 due to a decrease in travel activities in medical services.
“The top three services that medical tourists come here for include oncology, fertility services and cardiology, especially paediatric cardiology.
“Many Indonesians come here for oncology treatments while the China market is developed in particular to promote fertility services,” she said.
She also said that the aesthetic services are popular with Australian and New Zealand tourists, while the orthopaedics also take their place.
MHTC welcomes investments now, said Nik Yazmin, who is also looking to solve problems in various contact points, including translation, booking arrangements, follow-up services and others.
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