0220 GMT April 18, 2019
Thailand, the Land of Smiles, is loved for its wonderful culture, hospitable people and breathtaking landscape. According to World Tourism Organization, the country receives around 26.5 million tourists each year, rising to a record of 35.38 million in 2017, equivalent to more than half the Thai population.
Thailand has been one of the most popular global destinations for holidaymakers. In recent years though, this tropical paradise has been attracting a new type of tourist, whose main reason for being in the country is health and wellness treatment.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is “a state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the complete absence of disease or infirmity”.
Health tourism, where patients travel both nationally and internationally to places and facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, thermae, thalasso, wellness spas, fitness centers and wellness resorts, is a rapidly growing industry, estimated to be worth up to US$40 billion per year.
Health tourism is generally broken down into two branches: Medical tourism and wellness tourism.
In either case, patients are traveling for healthcare, generally for cost savings, shorter waiting times, and expertise that they cannot receive at home.
According to estimates by the WHO, 12–14 million people go abroad to receive medical care each year.
This kind of tourism is a rapidly growing sector of today’s thriving tourism industry, with a growing number of medical and spa destinations appearing across the globe.
Considering the total number of spas, Asia-Pacific is the leading region in the world (followed by Europe). Treatment in Asia-Pacific is significantly more affordable than other regions with Thailand being a key market in the Asia-Pacific and a hot destination for budget travelers within the region.
A view of skyscrapers in Thailand
Thailand’s Medical Centers
According to BCC Research’s new report, with a collective market share of 45.2 percent, Thailand and Mexico dominated the medical tourism market in 2017, followed by India with a market share of 15.4 percent.
Owing to its high-quality treatment with reasonable prices as well as many attractions, Thailand has become the top destination in Asia for medical tourism.
Thailand’s medical centers are capable of offering the highest quality of clinical treatments to patients as well as providing first class customer service.
I was very lucky to have the opportunity to travel to the country as part of a commercial delegation attending a “Study Visit to Thailand on Health and Wellness Tourism.”
The six-day visit, organized by the Thai Embassy in Tehran and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), was aimed at presenting the special health and wellness packages offered by Thai hospitals and clinics to the Iranian delegation.
Iranian delegation was hosted by Pichaya Saisaengchan, director of the TAT Dubai and Middle East Office (1st R), for a dinner meeting in a pleasant atmosphere of Hua Hin Hall, Amari Hua Hin - Luxury Resort and Spa.
Apex Medical Center and La Vie Detox and Wellness Center
Apex Medical Center and La Vie Detox and Wellness Center were the first two medical and wellness centers that we visited in the Thai capital to gain knowledge about the special health and wellness services they provide.
Apex Medical Center provides the highest standard of treatment. The center performs the most up-to-date comprehensive range of state-of-the-art cosmetic procedures and services to help patients achieve and exceed their aesthetic goals.
Experts of the center gave a two-hour presentation on several medical and cosmetics sectors and also on its health care programs.
The center is the leading aesthetics medical service in South East Asia.
Among the laudable health and wellness packages, Whole Body Cryotherapy, or one of the N-ice Treatments, drew our attention the most — Ice Lab, the cool way to lose weight.
Whole Body Cryotherapy is a cold treatment where you will stay in a cabin of -110 degrees Celsius for three minutes. In response to the cold, processes are initiated throughout your body that provide more energy, better skin, faster metabolism and muscle recovery.
Three members of our seven-member group tried out the treatment.
First, they stayed in a room of -10 degrees Celsius for 10 seconds, then they stayed in a room of -60 degrees Celsius for 10 seconds, and finally they entered the room of -110 degrees Celsius. Once they got out of the cabin they felt very energetic, cheerful and positive. “This is due to the release of endorphin and serotonin,” a specialist said.
Whole Body Cryotherapy originated in Japan in the 70’s, resulting from research into pain relief for rheumatoid arthritis. When cryotherapy turned out to be very effective, it was also increasingly used outside the medical world. Over the last few years Whole Body Cryotherapy has become more popular in sports, beauty and wellness.
At La Vie Detox and Wellness Center, a PowerPoint presentation was delivered by Dr. Siritira Srichantapong.
La Vie is an anti-aging and wellness center that takes an innovative and holistic approach in helping patients improve their current state of health, prevent age-related diseases and gain more enjoyment and fulfillment in life.
The center’s services include detoxification, massage, IV (intravenous) therapy, ozone therapy and medical checkup. It has infrared saunas, consultation rooms as well as a VIP lounge.
To promote wellness and anti-aging, this Detox Center offers all treatments including Infrared Sauna, Colonic Hydrotherapy, Blood and Vein Detox to remove toxins and rejuvenate the body. All medical equipment is FDA approved and treatments are supervised by a certified team of physicians and nurses. Its detoxification treatments may resemble offerings found in a hospital but are set in a luxurious and spacious surrounding for the most comfortable way to detoxify the body.
Phyathai 2 Hospital
Phyathai 2 Hospital was the third medical center to which the group paid a visit, during which the hospital’s Marketing Director Jiaranai Boonprasatsuk delivered a welcome speech. At the Expert Meeting Room, the group was briefed on the hospital’s medical services.
The center consists of the professional team which is dedicated to helping patients manage their personal balance of nutrition, exercise and mental health. The center also develops a holistic program based on a compressive health evaluation and extensive lab analysis.
All treatments are personalized using only pharmaceutical grade nutrients, hormones, cell therapies and skin-care products which are designed to slow down the aging process, reduce or prevent degenerative diseases and reverse age-related decline.
At the hospital's Orthopedic Institute, we were lucky to get a bone density test.
On the third day of our Thailand tour, we left Bangkok for Hua Hin, an original beach resort, 195 kilometers from Bangkok.
Hua Hin is a refreshing mix of city and sea with lively markets, golf courses, water parks, international cuisine and excellent accommodations.
As Hua Hin has grown as a tourist destination and the number of foreigners as well as Thai people living there has risen, so the medical facilities have started to improve.
A man is waiting for a horse ride on Hua Hin beach.
Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin
We paid a visit to Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin in the town to gain knowledge about its special health and medical packages.
As in the other medical centers, we were warmly greeted with smiles.
Assistant Hospital Director Pongsak Boonyaleephun, M.D. delivered a PowerPoint presentation.
The hospital’s wards include:
· Internal Medicine
· Orthopedic Clinic
· Children’s Care (Pediatrics)
· Health Promotion
· Other specialized clinics
Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin is a network group hospital under the flagship of the Bangkok Hospital and is part of the Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS) group that operates in all the major Thai centers.
The BDMS group, a Thai hospital operator’s shares have surged so much this year that it is now the most valuable business in any emerging market. There are six different hospitals with 34 hospital branches in the group.
Bangkok Dusit’s revenue from foreign patients accounted for almost one-third of sales after rising 10 percent in the first half of 2018 from a year ago, according to KT Zmico Securities Co.
One official at Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin said 50 percent of visitors are foreigners – expats or tourists.
Vitallife Wellness Center
Vitallife Wellness Center in Bangkok was the last stop we visited as a group. Vitallife is Asia’s first medically driven wellness and vitality clinic focusing on disease prevention, health optimization and rejuvenation.
Through utilizing the latest in international technologies, advanced treatments and cutting-edge medicine, the team at Vitallife aim to reveal renewed, refreshed and revitalized patients.
Wellness check-ups at the center are a simple but powerful way to manage visitors’ health and prevent disease. Unlike basic physical tests, the check-ups focus on wellness rather than illness.
The doctors analyze visitors’ hormonal balance, vitamin levels, fitness and longevity levels. They analyze patients’ genetics and their lifestyle habits, checking for signs of disease today and in the future. Nagging issues like fatigue, mood or sleep problems are also given due attention.
At the hospital, a new and cool technique was introduced to reduce fat: Cool Sculpting.
Cool Sculpting procedure uses controlled cooling to drop the temperature of the skin to -10 to -11 degrees Celsius in order to kill unwanted fat cells in the body gently and effectively without damaging other tissues.
On the whole, the Vitallife center helps visitors shape a youthful life by:
· Genetic testing
· Hormone testing
· Micronutrient testing
· Wellness check-ups
· Cancer screening
· Increasing energy
· Sexual health
· Better sleep
· Relieving digestive pain
· Losing weight
· Rejuvenating skin
· Re-growing hair
· Removing toxins
· Boosting immune system
· Regaining brain function
· Early detection
Spas in Thailand
Visiting the Oasis Spa Sukhumvit 31 was part of our Study Visit program.
The spa in Bangkok provides the latest spa experience with treatments created by combining the best ancient Thai techniques and herbal secrets with advanced discoveries in beauty and wellness.
The luxury spa with a pleasant environment gives a relaxing atmosphere.
After we were greeted by the friendly and polite staff, the receptionist was very helpful, explaining everything on the menu. We entered a calm garden whose ancient trees watched skyscrapers being built. At the end of the pathway we found a colonial building housing our private villa treatment room with waterfall and gracious professional service.
There are a vast number of spas in Thailand that provide therapy, rest, and relaxation for tourists, locals, and resident foreigners.
The treatments found in wellness spas include things like therapeutic massage, detoxifying mud baths, Ayurvedic treatments, colon cleansing, acupressure, yoga, reflexology, meditation, aromatherapy, and hydrotherapy.
Recently, Travel Weekly magazine, from the UK, announced that Thailand had been voted as the best destination for spa and wellness, from the Best Destinations in the World.
Travel Weekly has unveiled the results of its “Best Destinations in the World” survey and Thailand made it into the top 10 in four important categories. These were Best for Spa & Wellness (1st place), Best for Value for Money (2nd place), Best for Food & Drink (4th place), and Best for Luxury (9th place).
Health & Wellness Trade Meet 2018
On the sidelines of the study visit we attended a trade meet, held on August 30, at the Athenee Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Bangkok.
We attended the “Amazing Thailand Health & Wellness Trade Meet 2018” as guests of honor.
Specialist travel buyers in the health and wellness sectors joined the one-day trade meet organized by TAT.
Opening the event, TAT’s Deputy Governor for International Marketing — Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Americas — Srisuda Wanapinyosak said, “This annual showcase is part of our strategy to promote Thailand as a world-class destination for health and wellness tourism. According to a report by the Global Wellness Institute in 2015, Thailand was one of the top ten Wellness Tourism Markets in the Asia-Pacific region and one of the top twenty Wellness Tourism Markets worldwide.
“The event enables invited buyers to be updated with the significant improvements in the quality of our health and wellness facilities, services and products, while Thai sellers get an opportunity to come up to speed with new trends and market demands in various source markets,” she added.
Wellness travel providers, mainly from Bangkok, networked with 73 buyers from Asia, Australia, Russia, the UK and the Middle East.
Grand Palace, Temple of Emerald Buddha
The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the heart of Bangkok is a must for any first-time visitor.
Words cannot describe the different buildings.
This sprawling complex of temples, throne halls and government residences has long awed visitors, thanks to the grandiose buildings, intricate architecture, and grand features.
The official residence of royalty since 1782, the palace is partially open to the public.
The moment you arrive outside the palace walls and enter the gates you are struck by the sheer size and popularity of what is Thailand’s most sacred site.
On behalf of Iran Daily, I extend special thanks to Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Thai Ambassador to Iran Kallayana Vipattipumiprates and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) for arranging our superb visit.
And a special thanks to Ms. Noradee Tantramongkol, counselor of the Royal Thai Embassy in Tehran for her incessant attention and hospitality.
Thai Ambassador to Iran Kallayana Vipattipumiprates (3rdR) is seen at a dinner meeting, hosted by Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the honor of the Iranian delegation.
References: Health tourism to Thailand, Bloomberg, Medical Tourism Magazine, Business Wire, Reuters and TAT news contributed to the story.
PHOTOS by IRAN DAILY