Opportunities in Medical Tourism in Thailand

Thailand is well regarded internationally as a destination for personal medical care, especially for elective, dental and cosmetic surgery. The Thai government is set to improve the sector even further, identifying the sector as a top priority for investment and continued growth in accordance with its Thailand 4.0 programme. Asian Insiders partner for Thailand, Axel Blom takes a closer look.

Thailand, a country of around 70 million people, has over 1,350 public hospitals with over 25,000 private clinics and 390 private hospitals. In a 2021 CEO WORLD survey, Thai healthcare was ranked 13th best in the world, better than many first world countries such as Germany and Switzerland. In the Medical Tourism Index (MTI) 2020-2021 Global Destination conducted by the International Healthcare Research Center, Thailand’s medical tourism industry is ranked in the top 5 out of 46 countries based on Destination Attractiveness and Medical Tourism Cost factors. 

In 2023, the value of medical tourism into Thailand was calculated to be worth some USD 850 million. Thailand’s particular blend of high-quality medical services, state-of-the-art facilities and affordable treatment has attracted an increasing number of international patients seeking medical care along with a tropical holiday thrown in.

Medical tourism in Thailand has enjoyed continuous growth from the 90’s aided by the Medical Hub Project that focused on accreditation, infrastructural development and skilled personnel training. Recently interrupted, arrival numbers are returning now to pre-pandemic levels. Thailand enjoys a robust healthcare infrastructure with modern procedures available on high-tech equipment and staffed by internationally trained, English-speaking physicians. Compared to Western countries, the cost of medical treatments and procedures in Thailand is considerably lower – as much as 50% lower than in some European countries and even more so than the US. This cost advantage is not at all a compromise on quality, rather a function of lower operating costs, government subsidies and competitive pricing in Thailand’s healthcare sector.

The market for medical tourism is expanding around the world, and especially so amongst the burgeoning middle classes of China, Southeast Asia and the Gulf. Medical tourism in Thailand is anticipated to grow strongly in coming years, fueled by several health megatrends. These include the rise of the silver economy driving demand for elderly care and innovation in anti-aging technology and procedures. Increasing purchasing power around the world is creating demand for higher-quality and comfortable medical interventions, and devices. Chronic non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease are rising globally with changing lifestyles from poorer urban diets and greater global alcohol consumption.

While cutting-edge medical procedures remain a critical attraction, Thailand’s medical tourism extends beyond purely clinical services. Recognising the growing emphasis on holistic wellness, the industry has embraced a comprehensive approach that includes integrating traditional Thai medicine with Western treatments, offering a blend of ancient practice with modern science. Furthermore, the abundance of luxurious spas, yoga retreats, and meditation centers allows patients to combine medical procedures with rejuvenating wellness experiences, fostering recovery and promoting overall well-being.

Owners and operators within medical tourism in Thailand are building a wider range of strategic alliances with airlines hotel brands, insurance companies, tour operators to build brand and awareness, especially as Thailand faces competition from other regional health providers. Further, as the potential returns prove alluring, Thailand is investing further in areas such as skills and training as well as specific areas of HealthTech, such as AR and VR and simulation training.

The government has prioritised the sector to enhance opportunities in medical tourism in Thailand with a wide range of incentive programmes aimed not only at medical operators, but at the various supplier sectors including chemical and pharmaceutical, skills training, research and development, electronics and automation, production and fabrication, and service providers. The medical Hub policy also supports Thailand as a base for the export of medical equipment. Thailand is home to many world leaders in production of medical devices, equipment and supplies and is both a major importer and exporter in this field. This field offers opportunities for investment with the Thai Board of Investment (BOI) providing various forms of incentives to encourage international operators. These include CIT exemptions, exemptions on import duties for equipment and some materials, ease of regulatory procedures for setting up and comprehensive support network.

As the world ages and middle classes expand, many countries publicly funded health services are strained. For those that can afford quality care with no waiting times, a medical holiday to Thailand is an affordable and attractive option. Opportunities in medical tourism in Thailand abound.

Opportunities in medical tourism in Thailand’s are available to international operators in healthcare, medical equipment and related fields as well as to investors in travel and hospitality. For a no-obligation call, please contact Jari Hietala, Managing Partner: jari.hietala(at)asianinsiders.com or Axel Blom, Managing Partner, Thailand, axel.blom(at)asianinsiders.com

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