Universiti Utara Malaysia, Kedah, MALAYSIA
The inclusion of tourism sector as one of the 12 recognized national key economic areas (NKEA) for the 10th Malaysia Plan represent the sector’s prospect in not only driving the nation’s economy, but also transforming the country into a high-income economy by 2020. With approximately 10 years left, many concerned groups are keen to know how this will be achieved. This paper aims at exposing the prospects of medical tourism as an essential subsector of tourism which would offer a number of proven benefits, and hence contribute to accomplishing the government aspiration of transforming the nation’s economy via the said sector. In discussing the subject, the case study method is employed involving Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) as an emerging medical tourism provider in the country. Findings of the case study are presented herein. Key words: medical tourism, economy, Institut Jantung Negara
The promising prospect of tourism as an economic stimulator has enabled it to be included in the list of 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEA), which has been specifically drafted to transform the Malaysian economy into high-income economy by year 2020. While there are tremendous numbers of tourism categories, ranging from environment, cultural, sports, and entertainment, to name a few, this paper intend to highlight on the prospects of medical tourism as a significant tourism-related economic contributor in this country. ` Connell (2006) defined medical tourism as health-related tourism involving specific medical intervention. Among the most popular medical tourism products are orthopaedic and cardiac surgery, which are very popular among Asian medical tourism providers, as well as executive health evaluations, cosmetic surgery, joint replacement, and similar complex medical, surgical and dental procedures (Horowitz and Rosensweig, 2007). Therefore this is a distinguished industry than that of the wider health tourism industry which involves tourists travelling to search for spas, yoga and meditation, or any other forms of health tourism (Connell, 2006; García Altés, 2005). 1
In a relatively detailed account of medical tourism development which began in 1800s, Schroth and Khawaja (2007) proposed that the current phenomenon is different due to the unique combination of global demand and supply within the international medical market. As observed in the region, this proposition is regarded as well-founded. The present development of medical tourism in the international market is very unique, manifested by the escalating statistics of players, patients and revenues generated around the globe of late. How Malaysia is positioned within this backdrop, and how it would affect the development of this fast emerging economy, are among the focus of discussion of this paper.
The Statistical Development of Medical Tourism
Medical tourism has been a very significant industry over the years. By judging from its health travel umbrella, the sector is expected to generate some handsome revenue of RM240 billion (roughly USD73 billion) in 2010, with ASEAN contributing RM9.6 billion (roughly USD3 billion) (PEMANDU, 2010). Specifically focusing on medical tourism industry, the anticipated revenue to be generated in Asia is RM14.2 billion by 2012 (roughly USD4.3 billion), with Malaysia is expected to bring in RM2.1 billion (roughly USD64 million) from that amount (Ang, 2009). As a comparison, India, another top Asian medical tourism destination, expects to gain USD2 billion by the same year (Connell, 2006; Horowitz and Rosensweig, 2007). These statistics surely are translated by a growing number of medical tourists around the globe. The movement of medical tourists is another...