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How Asian Countries Fare
by Marloes Giezenaar, Founder & Managing, Beautiful Holidays

Inspired in part by the financial sting of her own cosmetic-surgery experience back in Holland, the founder and managing director of Beautiful Holidays, Marloes Giezenaar, has beaten Malaysia’s savvy businessman to tap into the lucrative world of medical tourism.

A 27-year-old MBA-holder, the attractive young Dutchwoman had the foresight to launch Beautiful Holidays in 2002 when the industry was still at its infancy. Since then, she has helped over 180 clients achieve their ideals of perfection, throwing in an exotic holidays along the way.

Giezenaar, whose 55-years old father also pitches in with running the company, reveals that about 70% of their clients are from the UK. This is followed by Europe (10%) and Asia (10%). The rest of the patients are from the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

“Ninety five percent of our clients are female aged between 21 to 68 while the more popular surgical treatment sought are breast augmentation, tummy tuck, liposuction, facial procedures (such as face lifts) and nose jobs (rhinoplasty). We see an upcoming trend for people combining surgeries though,” she said.

According to Gieznenaar, there is an increase in people going for dental procedures.

“These dental procedures range form simple check ups and cleaning to veneers (we have done over four cases of this in the last two months and have around six more booked for upcoming months) and more extensive procedures such as crowns, root canal treatment and dentures. We have had over 40 people come for LASIK surgery. Our first knee replacement candidate form the USA had the procedure done in August.”

Prior to setting up Beautiful Holidays, stringent interview were conducted with surgeons and hospitals in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok, Pattaya, India and Penang.

The company currently works with two hospital in Penang and two hospitals in Bangkok. Plans are underway to include India in the package.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Great city, great hospitals and good surgeons. It is a big city though and when people travel far away to Asia they will want to see the “tropical Asia” they read about at home. Nevertheless, Kuala Lumpur has everything to become Asia’s leader in medical tourism if it can keep pricing levels steady.

Penang, Malaysia
A good medical tourism destination as it is a “resort style” island. I also feel the the two surgeons I work with in Penang are among the top 10 cosmetic surgeons in Asia. For me it helps that they have both trained and worked in the UK and USA which makes it easy for my clients to check out their credentials. Penang is small and easy to navigate even for tourists who have never been to Asia.

Singapore
Singapore is expensive compared to other medical tourism spots. This is the sole reason why we have not set up operations there. Also it is a big city and does not have the resorts lifestyles most of my clients seek.

Thailand
This is the place for the price conscious tourist (through Malaysia is not that much more expensive even if you go with top of the line hospitals and surgeons). Bangkok can be a frightening city for tourists who have never to Asia and also for young women coming on their own. Surgery prices have increased dramatically over the past few years and if you compare the prices of a medical procedures such as knee replacement at the top hospital in Bangkok it is only about 30% cheaper then what is being charged in my clients’ own countries. This means that with flight and accommodation cost, savings are not that significant (which quite frankly, defeats the main objective of medical tourism).

India
Great place for medical procedures but not for cosmetic surgery as most of the surgeons I interviewed openly admitted that they are trained in reconstructive surgery and thus do not have extensive experience. Knowing India and having seen their aggressive marketing campaigns while in the USA, I can say that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Indeed, there is a lot of potential for medical tourism in Asia. I feel that Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore are the strong players now although in is Singapore and Thailand that are in the lead. If Malaysia does not take it to next level in the coming six months, India looks set to be the third major destination when it comes to medical tourism in Asia.

To maintain its advantage, the Government of Malaysia will have to work closely with medical tour operators in a joint effort to take medical tourism to the next level in this country and to be step ahead from the rest. Personally, Beautiful Holidays would like to work together with the relevant authorities because we have conduced extensive research to predict the coming trends and I think Malaysia’s potential for growth in enormous.