Global Health Asia-Pacific Special Issue | Page 52


Malaysian healthcare tourism : Rebuilding post-pandemic

The sector rebounded in 2022 and is poised for even bigger gains in 2023 buttressed by a government blueprint that stresses patient-centric service and branding
MHTC embarked on promotional activities in Indonesia to reconnect with former patients , emphasising that Malaysia was open and safe and a trusted destination where Indonesians should come and seek medical treatment .

The year 2022 was an important one for the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council ( MHTC ). With the country ’ s borders reopening as a result of high domestic vaccination rates , MHTC launched an aggressive awareness campaign to restore Malaysia ’ s status as a primary destination for healthcare tourism . Before lifting travel restrictions , MHTC embarked on promotional activities in Indonesia to reconnect with former patients , emphasising that Malaysia was open and safe and a trusted destination where Indonesians should come and seek medical treatment .

According to MHTC ’ s CEO Mohd Daud Mohd Arif , after Malaysia officially opened in April , it recorded a seven-fold surge in healthcare tourists among traditional markets such as Indonesia , Indochina , Singapore , Cambodia , and Bangladesh . He elaborated that the increase was exponential , with the high momentum recorded during the second quarter of the year being carried over to the third quarter . “ The initial numbers indicated that the trust and confidence in the healthcare sector amongst our travellers in the region remains intact , and this has given us more confidence to anticipate higher patient arrivals for the rest of 2022 , to set a high target in terms of patient treatment for the rest of the year ,” he said . The encouraging numbers from the third quarter show that patients are coming not only from major cities in Indonesia , such as Jakarta , Medan , and Surabaya , but also from China as well .
Malaysian Blueprint for Healthcare Tourism Industry The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Industry Blueprint 2021 - 2025 was published recently by MHTC to guide industry players in how to provide the best healthcare tourism experience and espouse beneficial opportunities that propel growth in this sector between 2021 to 2025 . Malaysia passed the recovery phase in 2021-2022 and is now entering the rebuilding phase in early 2023 . The Blueprint consists of three pillars : the healthcare travel ecosystem , the Malaysia Healthcare brand , and markets .
The healthcare travel ecosystem focuses primarily on enhancing service delivery quality and patient experience by establishing partnership across various stakeholders and incorporating digital solutions . This involves joint ventures with well-known tech companies , such as Huawei , Pocketalk Corporation and online health consultation services , like Doctor on Call . Implementing digital applications in daily patient care also allows healthcare providers to efficiently resolve any visa issues that may arise due to prolonged hospital stays .
The second pillar involves improving brand cohesiveness . MHTC prominently emphasises the experience aspect of Malaysian healthcare tourism by ensuring that logistics for its patients are hasslefree , from pre-arrival to post-treatment arrangements . Steps to ensure this include establishing an MHTC facility , Malaysia Healthcare Concierge & Lounge , at the airport to streamline the immigration process and provide post-treatment monitoring even after they return to their home country .
The third pillar involves expanding the target market beyond Indonesia and Indochina countries and focusing on potential demand in the Middle East , India , Japan , and South Korea .
Connectivity Combining these three pillars with Malaysia ’ s existing strengths is crucial to the rebound of the local healthcare tourism industry . One of those strengths is border connectivity , where developed and populous states like Penang , Malacca , Selangor , Kuala Lumpur , Johor , and Sarawak are some of the key destinations . This is due to the presence of international airports where the patients can fly in for both treatment and vacation . Malacca is also a popular destination for foreign visitors coming in on cruise liners from Johor and parts of Indonesia .
State initiatives State governments and local private hospitals have also taken the initiative to promote Malaysian healthcare tourism . For example , Penang ’ s private hospital network has been boosting its worldclass patient care services and the state ’ s tourist attractions , while Sabah and Sarawak have unique attractions , from popular seaside accommodations to lush forest reserves . The East Malaysian states also have their own tourism authority that has worked closely with MHTC to promote their healthcare infrastructure and multicultural attractions , such as food and arts .
Hotel wellness initiative Malaysia ’ s hotel chains have also started positioning
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