DOT positions PH as top medical tourism destination

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora


The Department of Tourism (DOT) is planning to boost medical tourism in the Philippines, banking on the country's world-class physicians and Filipino brand of caring.


Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat recetly said the pandemic-induced crisis has brought into light the importance of medical travel and wellness tourism.


"We see so much untapped potential in the health and wellness industry. With world-class hospitals and facilities, skilled doctors and nurses, and the Filipino brand of hospitality, the Philippines is poised to become an attractive destination for medical tourism," she said.


According to the most recent report available at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), international spending on medical tourism or health-related personal travel reached US $11 billion in 2017 alone, with the United States as the largest destination market.


In addition to being the world's top inbound medical tourism destination, the US was also the world's leading outbound market, with American citizens spending around US $2.3 billion on medical services abroad.


In developing a medical tourism sub-sector, the WTTC said governments should consider establishing smart regulation and recognized certification of medical facilities; visa facilitation policies; and financial incentives to attract investment into the tourism product.


"Currently, we have been implementing measures that will further develop the country as a medical tourism destination in a calibrated approach, including the development of an internal ecosystem and network of facilities in the country to accommodate concerns and issues surrounding this tourism product," Puyat said.


For Puyat, the staging of the WTTC Global Summit that gathered more than 1,200 delegates in Manila last April alone is proof of the Philippines' gold standard approach in hosting meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) even during a pandemic.


World-class doctors, facilities


Juergen Steinmetz, a delegate at the recent WTTC Summit, agreed that Manila could become the next top medical tourism hub based on his first-hand experience of getting medical treatment at the Makati Medical Center for his left leg in April.


"It's a secret to be revealed and in the making to come out and go viral. The Philippines will become the number one destination for medical tourism," Steinmetz quipped in his recent article published by eturbonews.com.


"All the ingredients are here. Excellent world-class doctors and facilities, nurses that keep the standard for high-quality care around the world, and a beautiful country, wonderful beaches, good food, and exciting cities," he added.


Steinmetz also noted the considerably cheaper medical costs in the Philippines compared to other countries.


DOT's medical, health and wellness tourism program is currently headed by newly-appointed Director Paulo Benito Tugbang.


Prior to his appointment, Tugbang led the Medical Travel and Wellness Tourism Program of the Department of Health and served with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases Secretariat as the technical lead.


Tugbang is a registered medical doctor, as well as a board topnotcher nurse and midwife. (PNA)