Many emerging markets with highly skilled clinicians had made significant infrastructure and technology investments in hospitals and clinics in order to entice new tourists into their markets. Trade missions had taken place and 2020 was to be the launch year for their sector. Malaysia was one of these countries. Since 2005, Malaysia has enjoyed strong growth in its medical tourism sector, with patients travelling from countries in the region such as Indonesia to take advantage of the quality care in Malaysia. The country even saw promising growth from patients travelling from as far away as the Middle East, Europe and Australia.
The Malaysian government had been banking on this growth, so much so that they created the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), and arm of government whose specific objective was to support the strong and stable growth of the sector. MHTC had signalled that 2020 was the “Year of Healthcare Travel” and they had anticipated 2 million international visitors to utilise its 15,000 beds that were available in the sector. As the pandemic struck, these plans, like many of our own personal plans, dreams and objectives for 2020 went up in a puff of smoke.
With the medical tourism market worth $87 billion annually, there was much to fight for, but with te Covid Pandemic, most hospitals and clinics around the globe expect to see greater than 60%-80% contraction in the market, corresponding to similar negative forecasts for the decline in the travel industry.
Governments such as the Malaysian government have been quick to back the sector and its healthcare providers through these difficult times and we do not anticipate that there will be many healthcare providers that don’t make it through the recession. In Malaysia, there was a tacit recognition by the government that this was a market and sector that could not be allowed to fail as it represented 7.9% of total tourist revenues.
With the gradual lifting of travel bans and the introduction of 14 and 21 day quarantine for visitors to countries, business is gradually increasing, but the risks and predictions of future lockdowns (albeit regional) and second spikes through the Western winter flu season are not far away.
Many Healthcare providers (HCP) are using the time wisely, doubling-down if you will and preparing for the market to resume. They are improving quality, cleanliness of their clinics and scrubbing up their marketing collateral. At Brit-Med, we are anticipating a strong resurgence from this very resilient market and as a facilitating platform for quality Healthcare providers, we are forecasting that digital transformation, which has been a positive power for good in all countries during the pandemic, will be the key to a faster recover. Our platform aims to bring to patients in one location, the very best HCPs offering all the procedures that patients require. Providing choice, price transparency, but most of all the much needed peace of mind that the Pandemic has stripped away.
The healthcare tourism market will undoubtedly bounce back, stronger and more resilient than before and our forecast is that digital transformation will be the primary catalyst to this recovery.