MHTC eyes regional market

by HARIZAH KAMEL / pic credit: mhtc.org.my

THE Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) is eyeing countries within the same region or places with shorter flight distance to Malaysia as its target market during the pandemic period.

MHTC newly appointed CEO Mohd Daud Mohd Arif (picture) said as some of the critical cases need fast treatment, this target is viable to cater to this healthcare group.

Regionally, the country normally receives tourists from China, Vietnam and Myanmar, but Indonesia has always been the main source of medical tourists.

For China, Mohd Daud said MHTC is aware of the huge potential of the sizeable market, which is why it has been targeting the country’s secondary and tertiary cities where income level has risen.

“Their desire to seek better medical services outside of China is even stronger. There is a lot of potential for them to come to Malaysia, especially in fertility treatment partly because they have lifted their one child policy and many of them would like to build a bigger family. They are looking at Malaysia as a solution,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in an interview.

“There are bigger parts of healthcare that Malaysia can provide. I know very clearly on the leisure tourism side, Malaysia has been promoted as a lung cleansing destination for tourists from China. They do come here to relax and rejuvenate before going back home.”

He said beyond the short-haul and medium-haul market, MHTC is casting its net as wide as possible, eyeing new potential markets including India and the Middle East, but these are still at the exploratory stage.

The travel restriction alone poses a huge threat and once borders were closed, challenges surfaced for MHTC and its stakeholders in bringing growth to this particular segment.

Malaysia is currently one of the top destinations globally for medical tourism, comprising both the private and public sectors.

Indonesia still makes up the bulk of medical tourists at 60%, while China is also one of the larger markets, followed by Australia and New Zealand.

In 2019, Malaysia received 1.22 million visitors, enjoying 17% of revenue increase of RM1.7 billion in hospital receipts, while 2020 saw a decrease in expectation of RM780 million due to the drop in healthcare travel activity.

MHTC said the top three services that medical tourists came here for included oncology, fertility services and cardiology, especially paediatric cardiology.

Mohd Daud said the pandemic is a wake-up call for the industry to be ready to ensure sustainability.

“I would think that before Covid-19, the word sustainability might be taken lightly, but now I think people understand the severe impact the industry is facing. We need to come up with innovative solutions so that we can be ready to handle future shocks,” he opined.

Despite everything, he acknowledged that Covid-19 paves the way for digital readiness or at least pushing towards digitalisation.

“How far are we moving towards digitalisation within this environment? We understand that it is nothing new, even without Covid-19, we should be moving in that direction, otherwise we will be left behind. The silver lining of Covid-19 is that it accelerates this process.”