KOTA KINABALU, June 15 — The newly formed Sabah Health and Wellness Tourism Council (SHWTC) has plans to market Sabah as a destination for medical tourism.
A pro-tem committee led by Medisinar managing director Dr Anil Kumar said that Sabah has the infrastructure and the potential to be a medical tourism destination and the council hopes to get the cooperation of the state’s tourism board for its promotion efforts.
“We have the infrastructures and facilities. It will be a new market as far as tourism is concerned for the state of Sabah, bringing high revenue.
“We want to collaborate with the Sabah Tourism Board on how we can effectively advertise this area and attract people from neighbouring countries, particularly the BIMP-EAGA region, to seek health and wellness treatment in Sabah,” he said.
He said that based on data in 2018 from the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) Sabah’s revenue in health and wellness tourism was only 0.5 per cent or 7.4 million compared to the national revenue of 1.4 billion.
State Deputy Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said that the Sabah Tourism Board would work closely with members of the local medical community to make Sabah a destination of choice for healthcare tourism.
Bangkuai, who chairs the Sabah Tourism Board (STB), has also agreed to be the council’s adviser.
“Other states, like Penang and Melaka, already have their state healthcare tourism councils, so the move is timely. Accordingly, this is also in line with STB’s efforts to attract high-end travellers.
“We have had success in other sectors of tourism, such as rural tourism, and there’s no reason why Sabah can’t do the same with medical tourism.
“We must work closely together to achieve the goal, develop strategic plans to promote health care services here, and look at prospective target markets, especially when Nusantara is set to become Indonesia’s new capital,” said Bangkuai.
Sabah Tourism Board chief executive officer Noredah Othman said that the Sabah Tourism Board had started promoting its medical tourism through the MHTC but was prepared to work with SHWTC to develop a viable package for medical tourism in the state.
“It is essential to have local medical practitioners who can educate our stakeholders such as hoteliers and tour operators on the various healthcare options that are available to tourists,” she said.
Council pro-tem committee members present were Commonwealth Pharmacists Association vice-president Datuk Nancy Ho; Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents chairman Datuk Seri Winston Liaw; Malaysian Spas Association president Datin Jeanette Tambakau; Gleneagles Hospital Kota Kinabalu chief executive officer Dr Tan Bee Hwai; and Sabah Credit Cooperation chief executive officer George Taitim Tulas.