The Thai government is aiming to develop Thailand into the status of a "World-Class Health Provider" by 2014, with total projected earnings of US$11.5 billion over the five-year period of 2010-14.
The new strategic plan will be a substantial upgrade over the successful project to establish Thailand as "Spa Capital of Asia" which was achieved in 2008. It will involve a holistic collection of curative medical treatments, preventive spa and wellness services, and sales of herbal products and other supplies for the global health and wellness industry.
Broken down further, the earnings projection is for medical treatments to generate US$8 billion over the 2010-14 period, spa and wellness services US$2.23 billion, and sales of products and supplies US$1.3 billion.
According to Mr Apichai Jearadisak, Advisor, Federation of the Thai Spa Association, Thailand already leads the regional spa market.
"With more than 1,200 registered spas, 400 of which are high-end luxury facilities, and all of them together employing some 25,000 professionally trained therapists, Thailand undoubtedly has a claim to call itself the 'Spa Capital of Asia'."
He said there were many factors that make a Thai spa experience unique; such as, service-minded spa personnel, traditional Thai massages, spa therapies and recipes, high operational standards, and a broad range of multi-cultural spa concepts.
He noted that people came to spas to relieve stress, enhance their personal appearance and well-being, and reduce pain. Much business is also being generated in the form of a spa experience being offered as a 'gift' for birthdays and other personal celebrations.
Mr Apichai said that the Thai spas were working to upgrade the standards of their services and products, as well as the hygienic standards in the spas themselves. Efforts were also being made to improve the quality of their communications and marketing.
On the medical side, Dr Med. Prapa Wongphaet, President of the Thailand Medical Tourism Cluster said, "Thailand has more than 30 international accredited hospitals in Bangkok and various tourist destinations; such as, Pattaya, Phuket, Samui, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and more".
She said two leading Bangkok hospitals are already well-known for their ability to service medical tourists from the Middle East countries.
Dr Prapa, who also chairs the Health Services Business Committee of the Board of Trade said, "Thailand could offer a complete combination of advanced medical treatments and other health related services, plus a good vacation".
The most popular are health vacations, anti-aging vacations, beauty vacations, spa vacations and more mind-body wellness vacations. The most favourite adjacent services are dental treatments and dental cosmetics, medical check ups, aesthetic skin treatments, body shape up treatment, weight management programmes and life-style modification programmes.
Dr Prapa said that more than 200 private and public hospitals have received the "Hospital Accreditation Certificate" issued by the Healthcare Accreditation Institute (public organisation). "Today, it seems that Thailand has the most JCI accredited hospitals in Asia," she said.
She said that since 2010, the "Thailand Medical Tourism Cluster" concept has involved the collaboration of five government agencies and five leading business associations to support all aspects of medical and health and wellness tourism to Thailand.
The following websites have been set up to provide further information of the numerous services and service providers related to medical tourism in Thailand: