A rebounding medical tourism industry emerging from global recession may benefit the Philippines. At the opening of cosmetic surgery clinic, Shimmian Manila Surgicenter, Dr. Levi John Lansangan commented, “We are seeing a recovery from the global recession. Scandinavian visitors really want to go to South East Asia. And the Philippines has an advantage because people can enjoy a low price and an excellent service with us. I have clients from Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. Our government, particularly the tourism department, has been very supportive. But we also have to improve our peace and order situation because people think it is dangerous to come here.”
The Philippines is on its way to becoming a global health and wellness destination, claim the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Department of Health (DOH). Sixty representatives from the DOT, DOH and the private sector gathered at a Health and Wellness conference where they mapped out various strategies to improve the health and wellness industry. Those in attendance included representatives from the health and wellness, retirement and tourism sectors. DOT director Cynthia Lazo says, “We are one of the leading countries in terms of wellness tourism. If we are to really get ourselves on top, we need to get our act together to make our country a destination for medical and wellness.”
The future of medical tourism in the Philippines will not solely depend on the volume of foreign clients coming to the country to seek medical help, but its growth is largely reliant on the Filipinos working abroad. Dr. Anthony Calibo of the DOH’s Philippine Medical Tourism programme commented, “Solidifying the organization of all the stakeholders involved in health and wellness services, retirement and tourism will provide the necessary drive for the Philippines to become a major player in the global healthcare industry. Unlike other countries, the Philippines has its natural market. It is not relying on foreign patients, because the source of constant and sustainable growth for the industry is Filipinos residing and working abroad. Regardless if foreigners come in the Philippines or not to seek medical help, the medical tourism industry will still grow because many of these prefer to get medical attention in their homeland.”
Calibo admitted that the Philippines’ positioning as a premier medical tourism destination, has been overshadowed by other countries including Thailand, and India because of negative publicity brought about by calamities like typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng, and the recent Maguindanao massacre, among others. Calibo says the Philippines will be assured of the dollar-earning Filipinos who go back to their home country for medical services, including vanity, dental, and executive check-ups
He pointed out world-sought-after Filipino nurses and good English speaking medical professionals, as one of the advantages of the Philippines, “There are still challenges that the medical institutions in the country should address seriously. This is in providing world-class medical services and technology, as the Philippines is already on top in terms of human-touch. We need to work together in addressing issues that hamper growth in attracting medical tourists, and the foreign retiree market. The Philippines will only succeed if more medical institutions will get international accreditation and improve medical services.