The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) has vowed to intensify its marketing promotions on the country’s wellness sector, particularly on medical tourism, to lure high-paying tourists to the Philippines.
”It will be one of our high-valued packages,” said Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano.
The wellness industry is composed of the spa business, medical tourism, including recuperative services and cosmetic surgery and spiritual healing.
Durano said the country is fast becoming a destination foreign patients who are undergoing treatments like medical, dental, and surgical, as well as recuperative services because of the huge savings foreign patients get from offshore medical services.
Offshore medical procedures can be performed as little as one tenth the cost of what would normally be charged in the United States.
According to the Philippine medical tourism website, a knee replacement surgery in a high-tech hospital in the Philippines performed by Western trained surgeons’ costs around 6,000 dollars, while in the US, it may run up to 50,000 dollars.
Heart bypass surgery in Asia costs around 10,000 dollars as compared to 60,000 dollars to 80,000 dollars in the US.
In addition, gastric bypass surgery in the US can cost 10,000 dollars to 20,000 dollars. Overseas it can be done for well under 5,000 dollars.
This is why, Durano said, countries like the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, are beefing up efforts to attract the growing number of medical tourists.
Citing Department of Health (DOH) data, he said, medical tourism has contributed 400 million dollars to the Philippine economy.
Durano said both the DOT and the DOH have created a task force to look into ways of developing the Philippines wellness sector and provide market intelligence in determining which countries are potential target markets.
”We have to first ensure the quality of our hospitals,” he said.
Durano mentioned a government-to-government program where Philippine hospitals become accredited medical institutions with their foreign counterparts.
At present, he said, residents in the Micronesian Islands are now visiting Philippine hospitals for executive check-ups.
Durano also said in 2006, the government assisted the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Hospital in closing a 40 million-dollar contract with the Premier Service Medical Aid Society of Zimbabwe, where the latter started sending their patients to the UST Hospital.
Durano said DOT and DOH recognized the world-class medical services offered by some Cebu-based hospitals and is optimistic private-public partnerships between the government and local hospitals here are already in the pipeline to speed up Cebu’s medical tourism sector.