Thailand-based travel firm Really Really Cool (RRC) has partnered Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS) to sell bespoke medical tourism packages specifically tailored for Chinese travellers.
Founded in 2018 by former Nok Air CEO, Patee Sarasin, RRC is looking to tap into the rapid growth of China’s outbound medical tourism market.
Patee said that Chinese travellers are spoilt for choice now that every country in Asia is trying to woo a larger market share of outbound travellers from China.
“Innovation is key if Thailand wants to remain the preferred top-of-mind destination with Chinese travellers,” said Patee.
“Thailand is losing travel business from China to other destinations around Asia. For example, Japan is currently experiencing 14 per cent growth of Chinese tourists travelling to Japan versus only 1 per cent growth of those coming to Thailand. The Chinese are also spending 18 per cent more in Japan than in Thailand.”
Several factors are affecting inbound travel from China to Thailand, including the Thai baht’s persistent strength and visa issues. Currently, Chinese tourists coming to Thailand can apply for a visa upon arrival at the airport, but they have to contend with long queues, said the company. In comparison, Japan issues five-year multiple entry visas for Chinese tourists looking to visit Japan.
“What I would like to propose for Thailand’s policymakers is that we offer three-year multiple entry visas for FIT Chinese travellers. This segment doesn’t have an issue with visa fees, but they are looking for convenience. If we can fix the visa issue, it will certainly help capture more Chinese tourists to come to Thailand for medical purposes,” said Patee.
Thailand receives between 50,000 to 60,000 Chinese medical tourists per year, according to RRC estimates. Patee claimed that current flight arrival time slots available to many airlines between Bangkok and key Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai aren’t convenient. Passengers depart China late at night and arrive in Thailand too early in the morning and, vice versa, he said. He also urged the responsible authorities to continue discussions with operators on how to find more suitable departure and arrival times.
Thailand ranked third globally in terms of medical tourism revenue, according to the Chinese Medical Travel Journal 2018. A growing number of Chinese patients are seeking both practical and preventive programs such as anti-aging, IVF, plus elective health screening and treatment, said RRC.