The Department of Tourism (DOT) is seeking to capture the Middle East market as it positions the Philippines as the “next emerging medical and wellness destination” in Asia.
The direction was announced as it signed on Friday a partnership agreement with Dubai-based Agora Group to allow the agency to take part in the high-level gathering of tourism stakeholders and medical professionals at the 1st International Health and Wellness Tourism Congress (IHWTC) 2023 in Dusseldorf, Germany from June 8 to 9.
The signing of the agreement was done at The Medical City in Pasig.
Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco highlighted how nationals from the Arab states have a “culture of medical travel”.
“That represents great potential for the Philippines to attract them. Not to mention their familiarity with the Filipino brand of care. Second, their income capacity is also quite attractive in terms of being able to afford traveling abroad and availing of services here in the country,” she said in an interview.
“But it’s not only the Middle East that we’re targeting. There are many other jurisdictions that also travel for medical care, as well as wellness, and therefore our presence in Germany at the International Medical Tourism and Wellness Congress will position the Philippines as a viable destination globally, in terms of offering medical tourism and wellness,” she added.
Frasco stressed that Manila’s participation in the IHWTC will reflect how the DOT, under the Marcos administration, conveys its “seriousness” in prioritizing medical tourism as a marketable product around the world.
“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,” she said.
Agora Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Hadi Malaeb said the closed-door event will gather the top 100 buyers from all over the world, with an expected combined spending budget of over USD8 billion or approximately PHP441 billion.
In its initial presentation to the DOT, Agora Group Dubai estimated global health and wellness tourism to be worth USD45.5 million to USD72 billion, with 14 to 16 million crossborder patients and an average spend of USD3,800 to USD6,000 per visit.
“The event is not only focused on medical tourism. The wellness and health segment is a much wider spectrum of services including spas, cosmetic surgeon, general surgery, sports tourism– so all of these supporting institutions within the medical field can benefit from being part of the event,” Malaeb said.
With the Philippines’ natural wonders that have been recognized numerous times not only in Asia but in the global arena, Frasco said traveling visitors can “heal after their procedure” on the beach, in the mountains, and they can also enjoy delicious Filipino food and the distinct brand of Filipino hospitality.
The Philippines also offers the signature Filipino “hilot” at various tourism-accredited resorts and spas in the country.
“We are also looking at our islands, including Boracay, as a potential destination for Filipino wellness as well as Calabarzon that have a host of wonderful offerings in terms of wellness,” she said.
The DOT has been actively promoting the country’s various tourism products and destinations as it hopes to achieve a “full recovery” of inbound tourism in 2024.
To date, the country has generated over PHP1.7 trillion in receipts both from international and domestic visitor spending.
“So, we’re looking for this figure to grow in the years to come, especially that we foresee the 100 percent recovery of domestic tourism this year, and also the recovery of international tourism in terms of obtaining 4.8 million towards our goal of obtaining 100 percent recovery next year,” Frasco said. (PNA)