Australia Urged To Capitalize On Asian Health Tourism Market

CANBERRA, September 3, 2009 (Finance Roll)

Australia could capitalize on South-East Asia’s 12 billion Australian dollar (10 billion U.S. dollar) health tourism market if it evolved its tourism mindset, a conference was told on Thursday.

Medical tourism guru Wei Siang Yu told the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) conference that Australia could easily become the largest “second opinion” destination for medical tourists thanks to its top health care and perfect positioning within the region.

Wei said “doctor shopping”, where people sought up to six medical opinions ahead of treatment from diseases like cancer and pediatric services, was a standard practice in South-East Asian countries where residents did not trust their country’s health care.

He noted countries like India, Singapore and Thailand had spawned lucrative health tourism industries to service an estimated 180 billion Australian dollar (150.6 billion U.S. dollar) worldwide market, but tourists would choose Australia over others in the region if given the chance.

Wei suggested Australian nurses could be trained in hospitality to be able to act as a link between a hospital or clinic and other tourism experiences.

ATEC Managing Director Matt Hingerty said health and wellness tourism was an untapped sector that would cater for the world’s ageing population and Australia’s private health sector could cope.

“The tourism industry desperately needs this visionary thinking,” he said.