Life & Style: Thailand’s Top Medical Getaways | 2008-10-26

Bumrungrad and Bangkok Hospital offer first-class medical services at Third World prices.

The sight of porters and valets at their lobbies’ entrance; massive columns, high ceilings and subdued lighting at the lobby; VIP waiting lounges; boutiques and fine dining restaurants exudes a luxurious, but relaxing atmosphere.

Except for the occasional presence of nurses in their white uniforms exiting the lobbies and orderlies pushing wheelchairs, one would think that they are the lobbies of five-star hotels.

But they are more than hotels.

Welcome to Bumrungrad International, Southeast Asia’s largest private hospital, and Bangkok Hospital Medical Center, the flagship of the Bangkok Hospital Group, the biggest hospital chain in Thailand.

Over the years, Bumrungrad and Bangkok Hospital have been catering to a new breed of travellers - the so-called medical tourists who travel all the way to Bangkok from various parts of the globe for fast, affordable but high quality medical services.

These tourists have particular needs, travel for a specific reason, and spend more than double that of the average tourists. They are the targets of medical tourism.

Thailand has emerged as the world’s top medical tourism destination after dislodging Singapore seven years ago.

In 2007, Thailand received over a million international patients.

Bangkok Hospital international marketing manager Ralf Krewer says Thailand’s culture and its being among the most popular destinations make it attractive for medical tourists.

The Kasikorn Research Centre expects the number of foreign patients in Thailand to rise to roughly 1.54 million at the end of this year, generating about 40 billion baht ($1.1 billion). It should top two million in 2010.

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