Philippines to woo Middle East with medical tourism

The Philippine Department of Tourism said on Saturday it is seeking to capture the Middle East market in a campaign to position the Philippines as a medical and wellness destination in Asia.

The Philippines, known for its white sand beaches and famous diving spots, is dependent on tourism, which until recently has mainly been recreational, despite its huge potential to tap into the health sector too.

“We are giving the Philippines a fighting chance at becoming a tourism powerhouse in Asia. And we recognize that medical tourism and wellness tourism hold one of the keys to this endeavor because we have the people, we have the facilities, and we are adjusting government policies to ensure that the climate for medical tourism to thrive will ensue,” the Department of Tourism said in a statement, quoting Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco.

Frasco spoke after signing a partnership deal with Dubai-based Agora Group for next month’s International Health and Wellness Tourism Congress in Germany in efforts to prioritize medical tourism as a “marketable product” and strengthen the Philippines’ position as a “health and wellness tourism hub in Asia.”

The Philippines has 23 health facilities accredited and recognized by the International Society for Quality in Health Care, apart from dozens of others where staff speak English and treatment is cheaper than in Gulf countries, Europe or the EU.

Its medical tourism’s appeal among visitors from the Middle East is strengthened, according to Frasco, by a culture of medical travel, which “presents great potential for the Philippines.”

Potential medical tourists, especially from the Gulf region, are also already familiar with Filipinos as some 2 million Philippine expats are working there, many at hospitals and clinics.

“The culture of care and compassion shown by Filipinos who are in these facilities give us the strategic advantage,” Frasco said.

“People from the Middle East are already familiar with the level of care that Filipinos can give.”