It is a genuine concern for patients that sets the Filipino health care worker apart. Some will say that this is because malasakit or the capacity to empathize with people, especially the sick, is deeply ingrained in our collective cultural psyche. But couple the quality with excellent professional training, and it is not surprising that Filipino health professionals are among those most sought after throughout the world.
Thus, it is good news that the Philippines won the bid to host the fourth World Health Tourism Congress in 2009. The noteworthy global event will be held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza on March 26 to 28, and would serve as a key networking venue for leading health and wellness providers. Aside from a three-day conference and workshop, one-on-one business sessions between buyers and sellers make it possible to acquire supply contracts, establish market linkages, and agree on mutually beneficial transactions.
Attendance to the event is by invitation only, so that only serious solution providers and buyers can join. Among the solution providers that have been invited to participate are hotels, spas, health resorts, airline and air ambulance companies, medical services agents, inbound tour operators specializing in health tourism, and general and specialist hospitals and clinics. Cosmetic dentistry, plastic surgery, orthopedic and sports medicine are specializations that are expected to grow with the successful promotion of medical tourism.
Among the speakers at the press launch was Hadi Malaeb, managing partner of event organizer Aura International Dubai.
Although 92,000 medical tourists from the Arab world visited the Philippines in 2007, the number is expected to grow as the country is given prominence as a premium medical destination at the congress. Among the corporate buyers expected to attend the event are health officials from oil-producing Middle Eastern countries that are among the biggest spenders for medical travel. An additional boost for medical tourism is anticipated with the participation of international insurance companies whose network managers decide where to send their clients, third party medical agents mostly from North America and Western Europe who incorporate travel and tours with medical treatment for their clientele, and outbound tour operators who are on the lookout for health and wellness destinations. To emphasize the immense potential of medical tourism, Malaeb cited a 2006 study by the consultancy firm Globalysis that placed the health and wellness industry revenue at US$40 billion in 2006. The figure is projected to climb to US$60 billion in 2012.
In the Philippines, medical tourism brought in revenues of US $350 million since the program was launched in 2006. The target figure for year 2012 is US $1 billion. Undeniably, promoting the Philippines as a wellspring of healthcare and wellness through such events as the World Health Tourism Congress will be invaluable in reaching this goal.
“This congress is a great opportunity for the Philippines to showcase its Centers of Excellence,” said DOT Undersecretary for Sports and Wellness Tourism Cynthia Carrion. “The world-class quality of healthcare, the country’s close attention to patient safety, and the capabilities of our caring, compassionate, and culture-sensitive healthcare professionals will reinforce the Philippines as the heart of Asia for health tourists.”