Thailand plans US$131m Phuket medical hub to boost tourism

Thailand’s government approved development of a 5 billion baht ($131 million) international medical hub in Phuket, with the aim of expanding health- and wellness-related tourism on the country’s largest island. 

Construction of the Andaman International Health Center will start next year and be completed by 2027, deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Traisoranakul told a press briefing in Bangkok on Tuesday. The project will include a full-service hospital for local and foreign patients as well as a research facility and training center for medical professionals, she said.

The entire budget will come from the government, Traisuree said, noting the initiative is aligned with the 20-year national strategy of elevating Thailand into a high-income country by 2037. The project will generate a combined 62 billion baht in annual revenue from health and tourism services, the spokeswoman said without specifying when that income target would be reached. 

Phuket is a standout destination with direct flights to its international airport, an array of resorts, residential developments and spectacular beaches. Southern Thailand has been used as the backdrop for numerous movies, with “The Beach,” “The Man with the Golden Gun” and “Heaven and Earth” among those filmed in or near Phuket, which had 1.1 million foreign visitors from January-August this year as tourism began to reopen after Covid restrictions were eased. 

Phuket was Thailand’s test case for the revival of its tourism industry last year, as the province was used for the government’s “sandbox” project that allowed fully vaccinated foreigners to visit starting in July 2021. The government has since lifted virtually all Covid-related restrictions nationwide. – BLOOMBERG