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Asia Minute: Medical Tourism Surviving COVID-19


Many tourist destinations saw a continued drop in activity — and that includes some areas of Asia that specialize in “medical tourism.”

Medical tourism is driven by cheaper costs for treatment — even for some patients who carry insurance.

In recent years, several Asian countries have built out medical facilities and staffing to serve a growing market — some specializing in niche areas such as hip and knee replacements, others taking a broader approach.

Some Southeast Asian leaders in the medical tourism sector include Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

They’ve all been hit by the spread of COVID-19 — including the Delta variant.

But there have been some adjustments.

According to the publication “Medical Tourism Magazine,” Malaysia has allowed medical travelers from a small number of countries including Australia and Singapore.

The Straits Times reports that many Indonesians who would usually travel overseas for treatment are now staying home, increasing business for several local privately held hospital operators.

And the slump is not expected to be permanent.

According to the business consultancy GlobalData, the market for medical tourism should rebound to pre-pandemic levels and start growing again by the end of next year.

But in the meantime, much of that market is like the broader tourism market itself — with a short-term future to be determined less by cost, and more by the state of the coronavirus.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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