26th Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition
12–14 March 2019 • Expocentre, Moscow

Sector spotlight: Health tourism in Thailand

A million Russians a year come to Thailand, and the share of them coming for the country’s top-quality medical treatment is growing by the year. A delegation from the Department of Health Service Support in Thailand’s Ministry of Public health visited MITT 2017, and we spoke to them about why the Russians come, and why more of them are coming in 2017 and for many years to come.
Sector spotlight: Health tourism in Thailand
The following representatives took part in the interview:
Dr Visit Tangnapakorn, Director General, Department of Health Service Support, Ministry of Public Health of Thailand
Dr. Panuwat Panket, Deputy Director General, Department of Health Service Support, Ministry of Public Health of Thailand
Suchart Laobhripatr MD, Director, Division of Planning, Department of Health Service Support, Ministry of Public Health of Thailand
Dr Kittpong Keardrit, Director, Health Establishment Division, Department of Health Service Support, Ministry of Public Health of Thailand

Where do most of Thailand’s health tourists come from?
Generally, the biggest market for Thailand health tourism is the Middle East. The price in this region is cheaper compared with Europe, in terms of coming to Thailand for medical reasons.
We have over 70 hospitals that are part of the JCI (Joint Commission International) organisation, so our visitors from the Middle East come to these. Afterwards, they usually go to experience one of Thailand’s many spas or take a more adventurous holiday.

Are your medical and spa centres concentrated in a specific area for tourists or are they dotted around the country?
At present, there are 14 provinces in Thailand catering for medical tourism. Over the next 10 years, we are planning on opening up the sector to 25% of Thailand’s provinces – of which there are 77, including Bangkok.
How important is the Russian market for health and medical tourism in Thailand?
We noticed that for CIS countries, tourists are very cost driven. So if they are looking for service in places like Germany or Switzerland, they compare it with us. They realise that, for the price, Thailand can offer top quality health services. 
Speaking about Russia specifically, we are still seen as a new thing. So last year, we launched our product in Siberia and the Russian Far East and have noticed it has been quite good for tourism. We’ve had more visitors from Russia as a result.
A lot of tourists of course want to visit places like Bangkok. But for us, we focus on medical and wellness travel. It does not come as a package, as it is up the tourist how long they want to stay in Bangkok. 
We’ve had visitors travel to Thailand from Russia coming feeling forty years old and leaving feeling much younger! When they compare their service in Thai hospitals, they see that the service is comparable with five or six star hotels.
We have a strong tradition of supplying medical care to foreigners in Thailand, which we are now building on in Russia.
You mentioned you have just started targeting Siberia and the Far East. Are you planning on now targeting Moscow?
Yes, we are planning on targeting Moscow and Western Russia. We are targeting Eastern Europe too.
What are you targets for Russian-tourist for medical tourism in 2017?
In 2016, we attracted around 1.08 million people from Russia and the CIS. From January-February, the numbers increased quite a lot. In 2017, the numbers should be around 1.22-1.25 million. 
But for us, the numbers are not the most important – it is the quality of tourists. We would like high-spending tourists. We want to attract them by showing them the quality of our health and medical services, then encourage them to see the rest of what Thailand has to offer – outside of Bangkok.
Finally how was MITT 2017 for you?
We have attracted a lot of visitors to our booth wanting to know more about health tourism in Thailand. We attracted some medical professionals too, like doctors and dentists, so we have seen lots of quality visitors.