Government to push Thailand as premier medical tourism centre

01 May 2018

The Thai government is putting in place infrastructure and mechanisms to promote medical tourism in the country, with a programme of special class visas being instituted.

A recent medical tourism industry focus analysis by Big Four professional services firm KPMG in Thailand identifies the global trends in the growing healthcare sector. Globally, medical tourism is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 17.9% between 2013 and 2019. The KPMG report estimates that it will become a $32.5 billion per year business by 2019, and will comprise one of the highest growth areas within the Thai economy.

Thailand, ranked 18th globally in the International Healthcare Research Center’s Medical Tourism Index, is expecting to cash in on this development. Due to a high number of professionals in the health care sector and well-developed infrastructure, the country has scored 13th on the same index in terms of quality of facilities and services provided. Now, the local industry is setting itself up for a 16% increase in demand for medical services during the years 2017-2020. During the past year, there were approximately 3-4% more international patients than in previous years, and this number is expected to increase further, reaching upwards of 3 million patients annually.

The tourism industry overall is set to expand 12% each year, slightly lower than the rate of expected rise in the medical tourism industry (14%). Annually, 25 million tourists visit Thailand according to a 2016 Medical Tourism Index. Due to the increasing numbers of tourists and expats who are coming to the country for medical treatment, in combination with the nation’s rising middle class, the Thai government is embracing the opportunity for medical expansion.Thailand Medical Tourism Industry Rating

Government incentives 

Through a number of incentives, the Thai government wants to capitalise on the market development of medical tourism. Thailand is shifting public policy towards creating an environment wherein medical tourists can access the country’s services with ease. Some of Thailand’s measures to increase attractiveness are based on allowing tourists the ability to stay through specific medical visas.

Part of the government’s strategic plan to become a global medical hub involves the loosening of visa restrictions and the creation of smart visas. Extending visas from 30 days to 90 days for citizens of China along with those of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) will increase treatment options and draw customers with the promise of quality facilities.

Another part of Thailand’s strategy is to draw on a wealth of customers from developed nations in the Anglosphere, Japan and some European nations such as Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. A long-stay visa will be available for medical tourists – aiming to attract citizen from these increasingly ageing populations. This is especially true in the sense of aged care facilities according to Nawarat Nitikeatipong, Director of Audit Healthcare for KPMG in Thailand, who said that both “foreigners, as well as locals, are the target customers.”

“Senior and assisted living facilities will play an important role in promoting medical tourism in Thailand. This type of business model requires a combination of expertise in real estate development and healthcare services. Therefore, when it comes to accounting treatments, there must be a clear separation of revenue recognition for both,” Nitikeatipong stated.Thailand Medical Tourism Industry Spec'sAside from visa extensions for medical patients, in February 2018 Thailand began offering Smart Visas, aimed at attracting highly skilled professionals. The Smart Visa is available for professionals within 12 categories including one for “affluent, medical and wellness tourism.” The aim of the visa is to attract talent, investors, executives and start-ups to the country.

The visa itself means that foreigners do not need a work permit and are free to work for up to four years in the country. The visa holder is not required to report earnings quarterly, which is required on other working visas, but annually, and dependents up to the age of 20 and spouses are also welcome to join the Smart Visa holder.

“The combination of quality care and low service cost makes Thailand very competitive in attracting overseas travellers for medical check-ups, cosmetic services and dental services, with an increasing focus on health and wellness,” said Douglas Webb, Partner, Advisory from KPMG in Thailand. “While other regional leaders like Singapore and South Korea are competing for many of the same visitors with high quality care, medical tourists also value the unique attractiveness of Thailand’s low priced hotels, culture, shopping and service-minded tourism industry. Continued promotion by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and visa extension schemes will be important to attract more international tourists as competition intensifies.”

A recent report from Asian-centric strategy firm Solidiance suggested that the largest economies of ASEAN, including Thailand, could together face a $320 billion budgetary black-hole in the healthcare sector in less than a decade. 

Hotel chain OYO hires management consultants for top international posts

11 January 2019

Hospitality start-up Oyo has turned to a trio of former management consultants to head up its expanding country operations, with key hires Ming Luk Tan in Malaysia, Jeremy Sanders in the UK, and Andrew Verbitsky as Head of Europe.

Founded in just 2013, Oyo has since grown to become India’s largest hospitality group, operating in more than 200 cities across India with a network of 8,500-plus hotels – through a disruptive platform model of hotel branding combined with an online booking app. Now the company has set its sights on the rest of the world, with founder and CEO Ritesh Agarwal recently declaring that by 2023, Oyo “will be the world’s largest hotel chain.”

The 24-year-old promptly backed that claim by raising $1 billion in investment from SoftBank, Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture among others, and with that backing has sent the unicorn on an aggressive international expansion – recently setting up or expanding operations in China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, UK, and continental Europe and making key personnel appointments across the globe; among the latest, three former management consultants.

Ming Luk Tan

Named as Oyo’s new Head of Malaysia, where the firm has been operating since 2016, Ming Luk Tan joins after serving as the head of local of bike-sharing platform ofo, before which he led Axiata Digital’s Ignition Labs. Earlier in his career, he was a Senior Consultant with McKinsey & Company, spent three years as a Manager at Accenture, and kicked off his professional life with a five year stint at Ernst & Young, rising to manager in the firm’s business advisory practice.

Hotel chain OYO hires management consultants for top international posts

Andrew Verbitsky

On the other side of the globe, Andrew Verbitsky has been appointed as Head of Europe, with Oyo making an early push into Portugal and Spain. Verbitsky joins after close to seven years leading digital tourism and hospitality start-ups, first at Kayak as a Managing Director for Central and Eastern Europe, and then as a General Manager for Airbnb. Earlier in his career, over the space of a decade, Verbitsky was a practice lead for Deloitte, a manager at BearingPoint, and a management consultant for Accenture.

Jeremy Sanders

The pair of new recruits join Jeremy Sanders in Oyo’s international expansion efforts, who was named as country head of the UK late last year with a view to launching in ten cities beyond London in the next two years, including Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Sanders co-founded restaurant chain Coco di Mama, which he ran for over six and a half years, following a five and a half year stint as consultant with Bain & Company in London.

A background in management consulting is of course not that uncommon in the entrepreneurial world – indeed, one study in the Middle East found that more than a third of the region’s top tech start-up founders came via the management consulting sector – but for Oyo there may be an additional factor in seeking out consulting experience among its senior leadership; Oyo’s Chief Operating Officer Abhinav Sinha is an alumnus of Boston Consulting Group, where he was a Principal for nearly five years in the US before joining the hospitality start-up.

With operations already underway in Nepal, Malaysia, and China – where Oyo has stated it will invest the bulk of its recent financing at around $600 million – and its most recent country launch in Indonesia, Oyo’s next stop is the Philippines, with further Southeast Asian launches in the pipeline this year including Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand. The company has also been running a pilot in Japan, looking to officially launch in the next three or so months.