New medical tourism association to target high-spending markets

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Medical service providers, hotels and travel agents are establishing their own association to develop and promote Thailand as a medical tourism destination, and especially to lure visitors from high-spending markets like the Middle East, Russia, the United Kingdom, China and Japan. The Nation — “The Thailand Federation of Medical Tourism Association, which is in the process of being registered with the Commerce Ministry, will be officially launched by end of this year,” Prapa Wongphet, president of the Thailand Medical Tourism Cluster, said yesterday. Prapa will automatically be appointed as president of the new body. She said that prior to having an official association, the Institute of Small and Medium Enterprises Development last year had formed the Thailand Medical Tourism Cluster with 15 travel and medical services associations as members. Among the Cluster’s membership are the Thai Hotels Association, the Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons of Thailand, the Thai Clinical Physicians Association, the Association of Thai Travel Agents, the Thailand Incentive and Convention Association and the Thai Spa Federation. “We are now ready to move forward after working closely with our partners to design the master plan to develop and promote Thailand as a world-class medical tourism destination,” she added. Under the promotion plan, the Cluster had organized business-matching between local medical service and tourism operators and overseas travel agents and insurance companies, especially from Russia, Iran and China. Producing booklets and conducting roadshows in key markets also formed part of the initiative. Prakit Chinamornpong, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said that better-promoted medical tourism would enable hotels and other accommodation businesses to enjoy longer stays by foreign visitors who want to travel and experience Thai hospitality, as well as receive medical treatment for either health or beauty purposes. He said that not only did many foreigners want to receive medical treatment overseas, but their families and friends were also in this key target group. Meanwhile, Tanes Petsuwan, director for Europe, Africa and the Middle East at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said medical tourism products were among the key upscale products for high-spending visitors to boost tourism receipts next year. Opas Netraumpai, vice president of the Thailand Medical Tourism Cluster, said he expected to see some 10,000 overseas medical tourists visiting the Kingdom in the next year, generating at least Bt300 million.

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