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Thailand, third biggest medical tourism destination in the world

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Thailand, third biggest medical tourism destination in the world | The Thaiger
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In the process of shrugging off its reputation for cheap back-alley plastic surgeries, Thailand is quickly catching up to South Korea as the world’s prime destination for cosmetic surgeries and treatments. Home to 64 JCI-accredited medical facilities – three times more than Singapore and 6 times more than Malaysia.

JCI is the industry standard in global healthcare, where facilities are benchmarked against US standards and practices.

In an industry of massively over-inflated figures, it’s difficult to really gauge the size of the Global Medical Tourism market or even the Thai market. According to the TAT, a whopping 9% of Thailand’s 35 million annual visitors are ‘Medical Tourists’, but it’s believed this figure doesn’t account for tourists who happen to visit a medical facility during their stay and it doesn’t disregard multiple visits or expats.

A more honest assessment by the International Medical Travel Journal suggests the global market is worth around $13 billion, with Thailand being the joint third biggest beneficiary, taking $600 million in revenue each year.

The top 25 medical travel destinations by value:

Thailand, third biggest medical tourism destination in the world | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: International Medical Travel Journal

But what is Medical Tourism and why is Thailand so popular? A loose definition of a Medical Tourist would be someone who travels to another country with the primary purpose of undertaking some form of medical, cosmetic or dental procedure. Common procedure types, include plastic surgery, dental procedures, tertiary medical care and fertility procedures.

It’s estimated that Thailand receives 350,000 dedicated Medical Tourists each year, spending an average of $1,700 in hospitals and clinics across the country, with Bangkok seeing the majority of this money. South Korea still leads the way, but for how much longer?

Darren Lyons of MyMediTravel, a Singapore based Medical Tourism information and referrals platform (best comparison being the ‘Booking.com’ of global Medical Tourism), states that half of their requests are for cosmetic procedures in Thailand. Darren explains:

“We work with hospitals and clinics in 43 countries across the world and yet 48% of all enquiries are for Thai facilities, with the vast majority of these being cosmetic procedures. Breast Augmentation procedures in Thailand are by far the most common, but other more ‘modern’ procedures are on the rise, for example CoolSculpting, the Brazilian Butt Lift and the Labiaplasty.”

We asked Darren why he thinks Thailand is such a popular choice for Medical Tourists:

“Reputation. Thailand invested so heavily over the last 20 years, it’s now reaping the benefits of having 60-plus gold standard facilities and hundreds of smaller but well-established clinics. And a huge amount of the surgeons are internationally trained with many years of experience.

“Gone are the days of everyone sniggering at Thailand for its botched plastic surgeries. Of course, there’ll always be ill-informed people who still say this, but with so much information and first-hand accounts and reviews available online, such ignorance is being disregarded now.

“And cost is an important factor. Outside of the major hospitals, Thailand is so competitive, not just in the region, but globally.

“Other more affordable hospitals are quickly gaining ground, for example Sikarin Hospital and Bangpakok9 International Hospital. Smaller, more niche clinics like KTOP Clinic are gaining a reputation for the ‘Korean Style’ facial plastic surgeries, attracting patients who’d previously only ever considered South Korea as a viable destination.

“Finally, no waiting times. Prospective patients will say ‘I want my procedure done on this day’, and nine times out of ten, that’s when it’s booked in for. Failing that, it’ll be the following day.”

Darren went on to explain how emerging nations like Thailand were able to undercut hospitals in Western / developed countries, and it comes down to simple economics. Where the cost to build, run and maintain a multi-disciplinary hospital and pay the staff is much lower, and this huge saving is passed onto the consumer.

Price comparison of some popular procedures:

Thailand, third biggest medical tourism destination in the world | News by The Thaiger

STORY: Articles.MyMediTravel.com

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Business

Future of Thai department stores is being redefined

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Future of Thai department stores is being redefined | The Thaiger

While department stores have been a familiar destination for Thai people for many decades, CBRE, an international property consultant, is witnessing a decline in popularity and stunted growth, particularly in 2020 when Covid-19 adversely impacted the sector. CBRE believes that to adapt to e-commerce disruption and the changing consumer behaviour, department stores in 2021 (and beyond) will have to fine-tune their business model in terms of customer shopping experience, inventive activities and value-added programmes to continue their status as the second home for Thai shoppers.

Jariya Thumtrongkitkul, Head of Advisory and Transaction Services – Retail, CBRE Thailand explained… “While department stores offer shoppers convenience, saving them time with many varieties of goods grouped in different departments and allowing the shoppers to find and compare products and choose what they want, the traditional department store model does not fit the needs, lifestyle and behaviour of its shoppers anymore, especially the new generations.”

According to CBRE Research, the total retail supply in Bangkok as of Q4 2020 increased to 7.8 million square metres, a 1.16% increase year-on-year. Out of this, only approximately 3% was reported within the department store format. The department store market in Thailand is mainly dominated by two domestic retail giants, with Central Group and The Mall Group holding the largest market shares. They do not only concentrate in Bangkok, but have also opened department stores in many major cities throughout the country which allowed them to build bigger networks and grow their customer base.

In the past few decades, Japanese investors had also shown interest in entering the Thai market and offered local features that are well-known in Japanese department stores: simplicity, premium quality and services. However, with strong competition many Japanese department store operators have ceased their expansion plans. Some have exited the country due to the fierce competition against the local players, their performance in Thailand and the shrinking Japanese department store business, especially in overseas countries.

“The department store concept as a one stop shopping place is still in demand for certain groups of customers. However, with the e-commerce disruption and changing consumer behaviour, department store operators need to adapt their models, offerings and value-added services to their customers to cope with the challenging economic and market conditions.”

Adaptability of department stores can be highlighted into 3 main parts: customer shopping experience, inventive sales and marketing activities, and value-added programmes. While more and more younger generations prefer to shop online to save time and money, the brick-and-mortar store is still believed to be the second home for Thai shoppers. Department stores should be more agile in the era of e-commerce and adopt some technological innovations such as in-store automation and mobile payment solutions to reach the younger crowds.

Design is another aspect that plays an important part in customer shopping experience. Department stores can be more creative in remodelling traditional department store space into some ingenious and interactive space with a great design and right product portfolio mix for their customers.

The Mall Group, for example, has launched its first “Lifestore” concept at The Mall Ngamwongwan at the end of 2020 by redesigning and renovating its traditional department store space to enhance customer shopping experience and enjoyment.

The second part to be considered for the adaptability comprises inventive activities related to sales and marketing. The prices of products being sold in a department store are normally set high to cover the higher establishment and operating costs by operators, narrowing their target to only upper- to high-income customers.

Brand offerings may also no longer meet fast-changing customer needs since today’s shoppers have more choices in buying products online, not to mention the declining footfall due to the growth of e-commerce. CBRE Research has seen domestic players pushing hard to drive sales growth via numerous promotions, marketing campaigns and activities and collaboration with credit card companies during seasonal sales.

The third part consists of value-added programmes such as personal shopper, customer loyalty programme, on-demand solution and service personalisation, which have become a new trend as customers, including the aging population, are now more sophisticated and demanding.

The retail landscape has changed drastically in the past few years from various factors like technological advancement, consumer behaviour and preference as well as Covid-19. Cookie-cutter strategy will be a thing of the past, especially for department stores where the format and offerings have remained the same for decades.

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Thailand

Can you survive 10 days of no talking, no phone? The Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat | VIDEO

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Can you survive 10 days of no talking, no phone? The Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat | VIDEO | The Thaiger

Thaiger team member Jett tells of his experience at a 10-day Vipassana Meditation Retreat in Phitsanulok Province in central Thailand. No talking, no phone, vegetarian meals, and 12 hours of meditation each day. Transformative experience or sheer insanity? Tim finds out the answers!

Retreat location:

https://goo.gl/maps/AuovZvEVPRkxMshy7

Learn more:

https://www.dhamma.org

https://www.youtube.com/user/VipassanaOrg

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Business

The ‘office’ is SO last year. Say hello to more remote working.

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The ‘office’ is SO last year. Say hello to more remote working. | The Thaiger

Do you work from home? Or anywhere you have your laptop and wi-fi? You’re part of a growing trend in modern work practices as the fancy city office becomes an expensive relic of the ‘old normal’.

2020 became the year of people working from home. In same case, it was the year of being told to stay home so there wasn’t much option. During Thailand’s lockdowns in April and May, offices were closed and employers had to scramble to find alternatives to the “office”. With the rise of Zoom and other video conferencing software, ways of tracking time-on-keyboard and hundreds of other monitoring apps, employers suddenly discovered they could actually run their businesses without an office. There were certainly new dynamics and unforeseen challenges, but for the most part, it worked.

Companies had worked from central office locations for a hundred years. The remote/work-from-home option was a new test for everyone involved but many early wrinkles have been ironed out after an accelerated learning curve due to the Covid-19 situation.

In the early days, most companies weren’t ready to close up the office and send their workers home claiming that some basic operations such as accounting and invoicing were not yet able to be done online (Thailand has a love of hard-copies and paperwork).

Team meetings were also more clumsy online. There were even companies that told their staff to keep coming in to the office as there was no legal barrier preventing them from doing so. But many smaller and less digitally-savvy firms required workers to come in and risk contracting the virus.

In the US, the Bureau of Labour Statistics found only 29% of jobs in the US could be completed from home, while in Thailand (a far less digitised and service-based economy) the percentage was probably lower.

But larger Thai firms, such as Unilever and True Digital allowed nearly 100% of their white-collar employees to work from home early during the lockdown phase. Other companies adapted quickly and found that working remotely, or from home, allowed their businesses additional flexibility. Many workers also say they enjoyed the lack of office interruptions too.

While Unilever was unable to send its factory workforce home, it was able to shift all sales and executive personnel fully online to avoid possible Covid exposure finding hitherto unknown improvements in the firm’s e-commerce presence.

Thai startups such as Eko (“your complete employee experience platform”) was able to capitalise on the rise of work-from-home with its “work anywhere” employee application. Eko experienced 200% year-on-year sales growth in the first half of 2020 as companies looked for solutions to connect employees from home.

Teleconferencing juggernaut Zoom was trading shares at US$88 at the start of 2020, to rise to $568 by mid-October, only to trail off to $337 by the end of the year – the fickle nature of a fast-rising tech start-up.

Employees, generally, prefer the shift to working from home and the flexible hours. It doesn’t suit all businesses or all employees, but it suits many. A study by by recruitment specialists Robert Walters Thailand found 75% of workers want opportunities to work-from-home and only 25% want a return to full-time work at the office.

Last month the police and the Bangkok Metropolitan Organisation police urged businesses to allow employees to work from home at least once a week to cut down on traffic-induced pollution.

The Covid-19 pandemic also forced countries to rethink their supply chains and reliance on foreign goods. China, for example, responded to the outbreak by shutting down factories, some of which other countries relied on for medical equipment needed to fight the virus, and vital components needed for manufacturing of goods in China and other countries.

Whilst there was an initial push-back on China, the international supply chain has become so entwined with Chinese businesses and manufacturers, and China with other countries, that it would take decades to unwind.

One of the biggest winners this year has been the rise of the delivery services. Grab Bike, Food Panda, We Serve and Line Bike are the best known but there are start ups making inroads into the growing delivery space as well as many smaller and larger businesses that have their own deliveries.

These businesses have been able to thrive on the ‘new normal’ stay-at-home culture. Eat at home, work at home, shop from home, watch movies at home – the trend is growing as people realise that they can get almost everything delivered, timely, efficiently and at little additional cost, usually free.

The big test will be once the Covid situation settles down, whatever that means and whenever it happens, and companies look back at the successes and failures of their employees working from home. But there’s no doubt the pandemic and the imposed restrictions ave accelerated the need to develop new ways of allowing employees to work safely, remotely or from home.

The successful transition of some office work to work-at-home will also put continued pressure on the commercial real estate market. Many employers are looking at their monthly office rental outgoings and starting to measure the return on their investment.

The rise of the work-at-home phenomenon and the digital nomad will be the main trends for office work in 2021.

This article was written laying on a couch, at home, at 6.15am in the morning, because we can.

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