Cruising to cheap healthcare

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More foreign holidaymakers are cruising to ASEAN nations to seek cheaper medical and dental treatment, according to the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council.

Mr Reubhen Nair from Malaysia Healthcare Travel told ASEAN Cruise News the council is in discussions with several international cruise lines to form partnerships and offer special healthcare packages to holiday makers.

He said that dental check-ups and treatment in Malaysia are increasingly popular and attractive to cruisers because similar treatments are more expensive in their home countries.

Mr Nair was in Sydney recently to promote Malaysian healthcare to foreign travellers including cruisers.

Compared to dental treatments in Australia, Mr Nair said the cost in Malaysia is much more competitive.

As a result, more Australian pensioners are heading to Malaysia to get dental treatment.

Many travellers arrange for a dental appointment ahead and combine it with a cruise holiday.

In 2014, more than 100,000 foreigners travelled to Malaysia for affordable healthcare – 18,000 were from Australia.

“Malaysia is become one of the leading destinations for people from all over the world to get medical treatment. The infrastructure in Malaysia is advancing and the price of surgeries and hospital stays are regulated.

“And we are starting to see that many of the people who are seeking treatment, are coming from cruise ships,” he said.

“Cruise lines stop in major ports like Klang, Penang and Kuala Lumpur and they have 24 hours in the port – that’s enough time to get treatments. So for not just Australian passengers, but guests from local regions, it’s just a short cruise to Malaysia and then they not only get a holiday, but affordable medical treatment as well.”

Mr Nair said the most popular procedures among passengers are dental – for example, there are dental and health screening packages that also include a stay at a five-star hotel costs about AU$953, a package, which Mr Nair said is one of the most popular procedures.

Health screening, one of the most common procedures in the world, starts at $85 in Malaysia, while it costs at least $400 in Australia.

A single crown in Australia can cost between $1100 and $2000, while in Malaysia it will cost between $647 and $911.

“Dental work is extremely expensive in Australia, so using Malaysian dentists who are often trained in Australia, has become a more affordable option. This is appealing to older couples.

“We have about 67 medical professionals and hospitals that have been approved by the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council. These practitioners offer great services and we are now hoping to set up partnerships with cruise lines.”

In Singapore, foreigners spent around SG$832 million in 2013 on a whole range of medical care from health screenings to high-end surgical procedures in specialties such as cardiology, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, organ transplants, orthopedics and pediatrics.

The Japanese are also gearing up to the Chinese tourist economy who are willing to spend money on better medical services.

Earlier this year, Costa Cruises visited Japan with a ship full of Chinese tourists who bought Japanese medication and health checkups at pharmacies costing between US$250 and US$1,000.

For more information on healthcare travel in Malaysia, visit www.medicaltourism.com.my.