Literal Malaysian Hospitality – Staying Ahead of the Medical Tourism Game | The Full Frontal

Literal Malaysian Hospitality – Staying Ahead of the Medical Tourism Game

What exactly is medical tourism?

In simpler terms, it’s a type of cross-border tourism but instead of leisure, the main travel purpose is to receive medical care.

Not just for sex-change operations, liposuction or boob jobs like it used to be, medical tourism back then was popular with people from less-developed countries to get the treatment from developed countries, the kind of treatment not available at home.

Now, this perspective has since changed with more people from developed countries travelling to less-developed ones to receive treatment with a huge price cut, even with the airfare and stay.

What About Malaysia?

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The Malaya University Hospital in the 60s. Photo by

Well, a couple of years ago we were once considered an emerging global giant in this context. From getting over 600,000 medical tourist arrivals in 2011 to over 1.2 million seven years later, the growth was immensely beneficial, not to mention profitable, for a developing country like us.

Part of the reason suggested Putrajaya’s participation in the market, building the bridge between the public and private healthcare through the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC). Established in 2005, MHTC has been spearheading this segment for over a decade, not stopping for anything.

Except for the pandemic.

Stopping the Unstoppable

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Even the medical tourism industry wasn’t spared from the aftermath of COVID-19. Photo by

From its initiation 15 years ago, MHTC has been helping the nation get international recognition in medical tourism, even surpassing the United States. In comparison, we were ranked as the top destination in 2019, attracting 1.3 million medical tourists while the US only recorded 550,000 patients.

Once PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin reopened our borders for selected inbound travellers (medical tourists being one), MHTC in July had to lower its revenue target to RM500 million from a RM2 billion initial target.

This however did not exactly stop us from getting the spotlight we deserve.

Against All Odds

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A second win in this category for the country.

Last week during the International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ) Medical Travel Awards 2020, Malaysia took home two distinguished awards – the Health & Medical Tourism: Destination of the Year Award and the Cluster of the Year Award.

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A fourth win in five years under this category.

The former was made possible by the achievement the country has made, garnering a total of 1.3 million healthcare travellers last year.

Winning the Cluster of the Year Award for the fourth time in a duration of five years may be attributed to the solid public-private partnership, thriving in the industry in recent years.

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“Our commitment in upholding Malaysia as the World’s Healthcare Marvel will never
waver.” Sherene Azli, MHTC, CEO.

When contacted, MHTC CEO, Sherene Azli concluded both wins as a positive push to go further, “We are immensely honoured to be bestowed with two awards by IMTJ. It is a privilege to receive the ‘Destination of the Year’ and ‘Cluster of the Year’ awards yet again as it signifies the global trust in our country’s excellent healthcare travel infrastructure and exemplary patient journey experience which have been made possible thanks to the dedication and effort from all parties.”

Taking home recognitions for the country, several leading private healthcare institutions also nabbed prestigious wins at the awards including – Thompson Hospital Kota Damansara (Best Quality Initiative), Sunway Fertility Centre (International Fertility Clinic of the Year), 

Prince Court Medical Centre (International Hospital of the Year), and Sunway Eye Centre ( International Eye Clinic of the Year).

For the win, the entries were judged by a panel of expert, international judges like Keith Pollard IMTJ’s Editor-in-Chief and Laszlo Puczko, founder of Health Tourism Worldwide.

Uniquely presented this time, the IMTJ Medical Travel Awards 2020 was held on a virtual platform due to the global scare hitting hard on a large scale.

Rolling Out the Recovery

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Now the new challenge is to get them to come again. Photo by

The healthcare travel industry is now expecting a RM7 billion economic impact despite the clear hurdle we’re all facing today.

Short of RM3 billion from the initial target, the country’s public-private efforts in gaining back lost ground is now headed by MHTC’s active recovery plans to highlight Malaysia’s abilities to still be a world-class healthcare provider, despite the circumstances.

Applying a more practical approach, the core element of the first step is to introduce healthcare digitalisation to enable long-term continuity of inbound patient care.

“While we work hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Health to ensure the stringent SOPs are closely followed as the safety of the public continues to be our topmost priority, we do look forward to the day when we are able to welcome healthcare travellers at full force to seek health and wellness treatments in Malaysia,” said Sherene. 

For more details of the award, click here.

MHTC in the past has also helped make things better by creating Gerobok Raya, a Syawal thank-you to the heroes of the country – the frontliners.

About the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council

The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) is a government agency that has been entrusted with the responsibility of curating the country’s healthcare travel scene. Founded in 2009, MHTC works to streamline industry players and service providers in facilitating and growing Malaysia’s healthcare travel industry under the brand “Malaysia Healthcare” with the intended goal of making Malaysia the leading global healthcare destination.