Malaysia's medical tourism aims hit by world virus surge

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia’s aim to attract medical tourists by focusing on curbing the coronavirus outbreak hit a roadblock as resurgences around the world limited its ability to reopen borders.

Hospitals in the country can expect to earn RM800 million (S$263.6 million) of revenue from medical tourists next year, compared with RM500 million this year, said the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council.

That is far short of the RM1.7 billion the industry earned last year and its earlier 2020 target of RM2 billion.

“We may not have a normal travel behaviour pattern returning soon,” the council’s chief executive Sherene Azli said.

Malaysia started allowing medical tourists from six countries, including Singapore, Japan and Australia, to enter from July.

Since then, it has banned citizens of dozens of countries with more than 150,000 confirmed cases, amid concern over local outbreaks that could be traced back to visitors from overseas.

Malaysia expects to welcome fewer than 300,000 medical tourists this year, compared with 1.2 million last year, said Ms Sherene.

She added that hospitals have resorted to offering online consultations to adapt, with plans to focus on improving services for cancer, heart diseases and fertility treatment during this period.

“We feel that is a strong trust that we can build for Malaysia in terms of delivering world-class quality healthcare.”

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