Thailand Becoming Asia's Medical Hub

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More and more foreign tourists flock to Thailand for medical services.

There are many reasons why foreigners travel across the ocean to Thailand, and recently, one more reason has been added to the list -- medical tourism. Thailand has always been famous for its sun, sand and sea, but now surgery is another S that draws tourists to the Land of Smiles.

Thailand has the largest hospital in Southeast Asia and is the first ever to receive ISO 9001 certification. In 2006, the number of medical tourists reached 1.4 million and Thailand is now aiming for a target of 2 million medical tourists by the year 2010, according to the Board of Investment.

What appeals to foreign patients is the quality of Thai doctors, the cost saving, the hospitality, the aftercare services and the fact that the procedure can be combined with a relaxing vacation. An Australian patient of Bangkok Plastic Surgery Clinic said, "From the moment we arrived, Dr Pichet and his staff were very helpful and always smiling. My girlfriend and I were picked up and dropped off from airports, hotels, hospitals and Dr Pichet's clinic at no extra charge."

Price is a very important marketing tool in this industry. For example, at Bangkok Plastic Surgery Clinic, a facelift costs somewhere around US$3,500, while in the United States the price is US$7,000-15,000.

Dr. Suraphong Amphanwong, Health Service and Business Committee Chairman, Thailand Chamber of Commerce Association, and Foreign Activity Consultative Chairman, Private Hospital Association said in a press conference that, "With efficiency of private hospital service at present in Thailand and our relative success in this industry versus our competitors, the country will be much distinguished in this business if we are fully supported by the government."

The Opportunities in Thailand Tourism Industry (2007-09) report by industry research firm RNCOS attributes the figures to strong marketing campaigns by the private medical sector and the Thai government to promote medical tourism. It also says that sectors in which the country experiences the most growth included cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, dentistry and pharmacology.

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Dr. Pichet Rodchareon
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