Travel firm taps medical tourism

BANGKOK, 21 November 2019: Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS) has teamed up with Really Really Cook to sell medical tourism packages targetting Chinese travellers.

Founded in 2018 by former Nok Air CEO, Patee Sarasin, Really Really Cool (RRC) believes Chinese travellers will make up the next wave of medical tourists to Thailand.

“Chinese travellers are spoiled for choice now that every country in Asia tries to woo a larger market share of outbound travellers from China, Patee explained.

“Innovation is key if Thailand wants to remain the preferred top-of-mind destination with Chinese travellers. Thailand is losing travel business from China to other destinations around Asia.”

“As an example, Japan is currently experiencing a 14% growth in Chinese travelling to Japan versus only 1% growth of those coming to Thailand. Chinese are also spending 18% more in Japan than in Thailand.”

Several critical issues are affecting inbound travel from China to Thailand, led by a strong Thai baht, but visas are another issue.

Currently, Chinese tourists visiting Thailand can apply for a visa-on-arrival at the airport, without having to pay a fee but the queues are long.

In contrast, Japan provides five-year multiple entry visas for Chinese tourists.

“What I would like to propose for Thailand’s policymakers is that we offer three-year multiple entry visas for FIT Chinese travellers. This segment doesn’t have an issue with visa fees, but they are looking for convenience. If we can fix the visa issue, it will certainly help capture more Chinese tourists who come to Thailand for medical purposes,” Patee, claimed.

RRC estimates that Thailand receives between 50,000 to 60,000 Chinese medical tourists per year.

Patee also suggested that current flight arrival time slots available to many airlines between Bangkok and key Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai aren’t convenient. Passengers depart China late at night and arrive in Thailand too early in the morning and vice versa.

He encouraged the responsible authorities to continue discussions with operators on how to find more suitable departure and arrival times.

According to the Chinese Medical Travel Journal 2018, Thailand ranked third globally in terms of medical tourism revenue. A growing number of Chinese patients are seeking both practical and preventive programs such as anti-ageing, IVF, plus elective health screening and treatment.

But one of the major challenges is the shortage of specialist companies that serve Chinese medical tourists. They need to provide meet-and-greet services, hotel bookings, transfers and post-treatment holiday options in the country with excursions in addition to liaising with hospitals on behalf of their clients. It requires specialised travel companies, led by people who know the Chinese market and have some knowledge of medical treatments.

They must be fluent in the language and have the skills to serve travellers who require support and services that reassure Chinese who are seeking medical treatment in Thailand.