Sri Lanka to focus on medical tourism


The private health care industry and the Ministry of Tourism Development has set up a formal mechanism to develop medical tourism into Sri Lanka with the setting up of a Council for the Promotion of Medical Tourism whose inaugural meeting was held recently under the auspices of Minister of Tourism Development John Amaratunga.

A news release issued in connection with the meeting said it was attended by leaders of the health care industry including Dr. Rohan Wijesundera, who was appointed as the head of the Council, Chairman of Lanka Hospitals Dr. Sarath Paranavitane, Director Lanka Hospitals Mr. Keith Bernard, Professor Mandika Wijeyaratne (Vascular and Transplant surgeon) Professor Lal Chandrasena, Director Nawaloka Hospitals Ltd, Mr. Nihal Ratnayake, Director Central Hospital Ltd, Mr. Asoka Hettigoda, Director Hettigoda Group and Mr. Prema Cooray, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau.

Mr. Lal Rathnayake, Private Secretary to the Minister, Mr. Felix Rodrigo, Senior Advisor to the Minister and Ms. Anne Amaratunga, Personal Assistant to the minister were also present.

During the meeting, key factors based on the vast untapped potential for medical tourism in Sri Lanka and how the country could benefit from this market was extensively discussed.

The discussion also focused on setting standards, rules and regulations for medical tourism in general in Sri Lanka, the active involvement of the foreign ministry, immigration authorities and embassies and high commissions in Sri Lanka and identifying key medical specialties that can be easily marketed to foreigners coming here for health care.

It was also decided that the promotion of medical tourism in Sri Lanka will be implemented through strategic marketing and the country’s inclusion in key international trade and tourism fairs. Plans to hold a medical tourism convention by December 2015/ January 2016 with the participation of all stakeholders was also initiated at the meeting.

The importance of promoting alternative medicine – ayurveda, homeopathy and acupuncture to the western market and promoting western medicine mainly in the ASEAN region, based on a feasibility study, was also discussed.

In recent times, developing countries have become popular for seeking health care both on account of the skills available and costs much lower than what prevails in the West. Also there are no waiting lists for attention and most specialities are available. India has benefited hugely from foreigners coming there for medical and surgical attention.

Inadequate health insurance coverage in developed countries to pay astronomical medical bills in those countries, technological and care standard upgrades, state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, highly qualified consultants and medical staff in the Third World plus authentic ancient practices in ayurveda and spa treatments also attract medical tourists.

Sri Lanka’s healthcare sector has undergone an enormous boom in recent years and is fast becoming a global health destination offering some of the best medical treatment in the world. This is evident when considering the increasing percentage of foreign patients occupying beds in major city hospitals in the country throughout the year, the release said.

Sri Lanka is at a significant competitive advantage with its highly skilled and internationally trained medical doctors and specialists with extensive knowledge and experience. The leading private sector hospitals in the island with their state-of- the-art medical facilities continue to develop rapidly to provide superior health care services to its local and foreign patients.

The market

According to Patients Beyond Borders, with the medical travel market growing at a rate of 20% per year, market size is estimated at USD 55.0 billion, based on approximately 11 million cross-border patients worldwide. It is also suggested that medical travelers spend an average of USD 3,500-5,000 per visit, including all medically related costs, cross-border and local transport, in-patient stay and accommodation. More than 10 million people worldwide are traveling abroad for treatment.

Cost Comparison - Asia (USD)

A regional cost comparison of treatments on offer in the fields of orthopaedics, dental, cosmetic and renal care versus current US rates.

Sources: 2013, Singapore Ministry of Health, MyMedHoliday

Medical Tourism – Asia

According to Nikko Asset Management, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, India and South Korea have actively promoted their services to international patients since the 1990s having identified medical tourism as an effective way to bring in foreign exchange. Thailand and Singapore were the world’s top two medical destinations since 2012.



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