Oct 19, 2012

Vietnam - Developing medical tourism, why not?

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VietNamNet Bridge – More and more foreigners come to Vietnam over the last five years in medical tours. However, Vietnam still does not think of developing medical tourism in a professional way.

Great potentials, modest investments

The Central Institute of Acupuncture headed by Professor Nguyen Tai Thu, who has been well-known not only in Vietnam but all over the world as well, has been pioneering in receiving foreign tourists who come to have healthcare services.

Joining forces with the Acupuncture Medical Tourism International Group and domestic travel firms since 2006, the institute has attracted a lot of groups of foreign travelers to Vietnam, where they can enjoy acupuncture services and the elites of the oriental medicine. They can also approach a new way of disease treatment – Qi Gong. Most of the clients of the institute are from Europe and America.

However, with the limitations in the material facilities and the lack of high grade utilities, the services now just can satisfy a limited number of clients, while the institute remains incapable to expand the services. Moreover, no money has been spent to advertise the services.

In HCM City, the Cho Ray Hospital has been attracting a lot of Cambodian travelers to come for treatment. A report showed that the number of Cambodian patients treated at the hospital has increased by 90 percent over the last four years, 2008-2011.

However, the travelers arrange their tours to Vietnam to have medical treatment themselves, while hospitals and travel firms have not cooperated with each other to develop services and increase the revenue.

In fact, local authorities have realized the benefits which can be brought by medical tourism products. Quang Ninh province, for example, is now providing a tour, with which travelers can visit the Yen Tu sacred temple and have medical treatment with herbs. Khanh Hoa province has become well known as the place for tourists to have hot mineral spring, mud bath and enjoy herbal spa services.

However, these services have been designed as just a part of the tour packages, while no separated tour like this has been provided.

Explaining the low popularity of the services, Do Dinh Cuong, a tourist expert, said the services are really very attractive, but they have not been developed well due to the lack of the systems that can provide relating services.

Meanwhile, the service quality provided by the medical establishments still cannot satisfy the high demand from international tourists. Most of the establishments have small scale, while the staff do not have sufficient foreign language skills.

Travel firms and medical establishments need to join hands

MICE (meeting, incentive, conference, exhibition) tourism, medical tourism and educational tourism can all be seen in the list of the new tourism products named in the tourism development master plan by 2020.

However, to date, no cooperation deal between travel firms and medical establishments has been made to exploit the potential type of tourism.

Travel firms say hospitals and medical establishments themselves do not think of receiving foreign clients, therefore, they do not intend to make investment to lure more clients. Meanwhile, the material facilities at hospitals are just enough to serve the domestic demand.

In fact, a lot of private run hospitals which can meet the international standards in material facilities, remain unknown to clients, while the qualified physicians here have been mostly hired from state owned hospitals.

Therefore, an executive of a travel firm said, the firms now can only design tours for travelers to have medical treatment at traditional medical establishment, where people can receive oriental therapies.

Thu Uyen

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