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The RM30 million allocation for the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) will help maintain momentum for the medical tourism industry. NSTP/ Rasul Azli Samad

KUALA LUMPUR: The allocation under the 2018 Budget will further spur the growth of medical tourism industry in the country.

Chief executive officer of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), Sherene Azli said they are re excited with the budget announcement for the sector.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in tabling the 2018 Budget announced a RM30 million allocation as an incentive to boost the nation’s healthcare travel industry.

This is in line with the national economic blueprint where healthcare travel has been identified as one of the National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) set to drive the country towards a high-income nation by 2020.

Sherene said since 2011, the industry had shown tremendous potential recording a double-digit annual growth, ranging between 16 – 17 per cent every year.

In 2016, the healthcare travel industry grew by 23 per cent from 2015, compared to the average growth rate of 15 per cent from 2011 – 2015.

Malaysia received more than 921,500 health travellers seeking treatment in Malaysia, and it is estimated that last year alone, the actual contribution of the healthcare travel industry to the Malaysian economy is approximately RM4 - 5 billion.

She said Malaysia Healthcare had identified Indonesia, Vietnam, China and recently India as core markets based on the volume of healthcare travellers, as well as the growth potential of these respective markets.

In tabling 2018 Budget, Najib revealed plans to:

- Promote Malaysia as the “Fertility and Cardiology Hubs of Asia”, which will be expanded with eVisa services and high-end medical tourism packages;

- Introduction of Flagship Medical Tourism Hospital Programme with special incentives;

- Investment Tax Allowance for Private Healthcare Facilities promoting medical tourism extended until 31 December 2020;

- Double tax deduction for accreditation expenses to be extended for ambulatory care centres and dental clinics; and,

- Exemption of Income on Value of Increased Export of Healthcare Services rate to be increased from 50% to 100% for private healthcare from YA 2018 to YA 2020.

Sherene said in promoting Malaysia as the Fertility and Cardiology Hubs of Asia, it will be anchored on the nation’s medical excellence in these niche specialties through this special initiative.

“Consistently, Malaysia has been receiving high demand for fertility and cardiology treatments, especially from within our current focus countries. We have seen growth from these countries and there is enormous potential for Malaysia to be in the same level field of some of the international medical tourism offering countries,” she said.

As for the “Flagship Hospital Programme”, Sherene said the plan is that this will be introduced to support selected hospitals to step-up the internationalisation of individual organisations exemplifying enterprise, patient safety, quality care and service, quality management and service experience to accelerate their growth.

To solidify and elevate the medical tourism value chain, collaborative efforts with the Department of Immigration Malaysia will be done to facilitate the entry of medical travellers to the country through the Malaysia Healthcare Traveller Programme (MHTP) which includes the introduction of eVisa (Medical) online application services, she adds.

On the macro front, Sherene said the above programmes will benefit Malaysians with top-notch care and availability of advanced treatment, improved end-to-end patient experience and a progressive healthcare industry.

“As an industry, healthcare travel is an important niche tourism segment bringing in high value per patient spending to the total gross economy,” she said.

Malaysia’s success in the healthcare travel industry has received numerous global accolades including the prestigious “Destination of the Year” by the International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ) for three years in a row (2015 - 2017) and recognised by International Living as the country with the “Best Healthcare System in the World”

for three consecutive years (2015 - 2017), in their Annual Global Retirement Index.

Sheren said the accomplishment is testament to Malaysia’s well-developed healthcare system which is highly accessible, with competitively affordable rates, and of world-class quality.

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