The government has considered developing improved health facilities to give Indonesians who often go abroad for medical treatment, better choices at home.
This year, around 600,000 Indonesians have spent US$1.4 billion on medical treatment overseas.
With more people traveling abroad for medical treatment, there is an opportunity to develop health tourism here in the country to spur the economy.
“It’s quite significant. A well-established health tourism industry can bring in revenue not only from foreign health tourists but also from our people who used to travel abroad to seek medical treatment,” Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said at an international conference on Thursday.
She added that traditional medical treatment could also attract foreigners who are seeking homeopathic therapies. This potential, however, has not been tapped.
“Many things, such as diverse cultures and tradition, including traditional healthcare and medicine, may attract health tourists. But, lots of work needs to be done to facilitate the successful development of health tourism in this country,” she said.
The number of Indonesians seeking medical treatment abroad this year saw a significant increase from 2006 when nearly 350,000 people went overseas and spent $500 million.
During the conference, the Health Ministry and the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry signed an agreement for the development of health tourism, which is now considered one of the engines for economic growth in the Asia Pacific.
Under the agreement signed by Mari and Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi, the government will work with its public and private stakeholders, including hospital representatives, spa providers, and health associations, to create the Indonesia Wellness and Healthcare Tourism (IWHT) working team, which will jointly design a work plan to follow up the agreement.
Health tourism is growing rapidly in the region. Thailand earned $3.2 billion in 2011 from their health tourism industry. Globally, it is estimated that each country can earn about $100 billion per year from health tourism.
According to a global survey conducted by McKinsey in 2008, 40 percent of patients went abroad to seek medical treatment for reasons related to medical technology and 32 percent of patients sought quality health care services.
Nafsiah said that wellness spas offering traditional treatments had huge potential to boost the health tourism industry. Two well-known Indonesian spa treatment methods, namely Java spa and Bali spa, are actually the most commonly used spa methods in countries throughout the world.
Elly Burhaini Faizal
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