By Tengku Noor Shamsiah
PUTRAJAYA, Jan 2 (Bernama) -- US firm CureOnTour will invest RM200 million in the next five years to promote medical tourism in Malaysia and some other English-speaking countries, chairman and chief executive officer Bernhard Schutte said.
The investment could be more, he added, in view of the fact that the medical tourism business is valued at US20 billion currently and is expected to double to US40 billion in the next three years.
"It is a huge business. Almost every country is involved in medical tourism in some form or another, and the biggest in the medical tourism business is Germany," he told Bernama in an interview here.
According to him, CureOnTour was established to promote the availability of top quality medical procedures, and he felt the best value for money is in Malaysia.
Malaysia, Schutte said, is fast becoming one of the leading medical tourism destinations in Asia because of its high medical standards and best value for money.
"Nevertheless, we find that medical tourism in Malaysia is way behind compared to countries like Thailand or India, and there shouldn't be a reason for this because the quality of the medical tourism here is very good," he added.
"Malaysia has fantastic hospitals here, of high quality with very good surgeons who have been trained in the UK, USA or Australia.
"So you definitely have the capability that these other countries have. What's missing is marketing, getting people to know and understand what is available here in Malaysia."
Schutte, who is chairman and chief negotiator of EBM Asia Pacific division, which owns and manages CureOnTour, explained that if Malaysia wants to market itself in other countries, it has to use the local knowledge of those countries to penetrate their markets.
"It is not possible for Malaysia to do marketing with a Malaysian marketing company, you've got to use companies in the countries you are penetrating, that is very important," he contended.
For instance, he said, the biggest hospital in Thailand is attracting medical tourists by using American firms to advertise in the US market.
Schutte suggested that rather than sell itself as the cheapest in the region for medical treatment, Malaysia ought to focus on the quality of the services provided and the seriousness with which medical tourism is undertaken.
"In the US or European markets, if we tell them we are the cheapest, this won't sell because the word cheap is almost like a bad word," he pointed out.
"Cheap often means bad quality. So, Malaysia has to learn to sell itself as the best value for money where you still get good quality service.
"This is the way to go for Malaysia. And this is what CureOnTour is going to be promoting - best value for money medical tourism in Malaysia."
In line with this, Schutte said, CureOnTour is only dealing with surgeons and medical facilities that it feels meet the high standards needed to sell medical tourism worldwide.
Among the hospitals it has signed contracts with is Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC) while others in the pipeline include Gleaneagles and Sunway.
Schutte said the medical facilities in Malaysia are comparable to those that the company deals with in the US or Germany - "Malaysia has the same kind of quality or standards, sometime even better than a lot of American hospitals."
CureOnTour, being a one-stop facilitator, will coordinate everything for the travelling patients and their companions, including planning for the trips, flight reservations, transportation from the airport to accommodation, appointments with doctors and booking procedures, he added.