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Bali as a Favorite Medical Tourism Destination

Medical tourism refers to people traveling abroad to obtain medical treatment. In the past, this usually referred to those who traveled from less-developed countries to major medical centers in highly developed countries for treatment unavailable at home.

However, in recent years it may equally refer to those from developed countries who travel to developing countries for lower-priced medical treatments. The motivation may be also for medical services unavailable or non-licensed in the home country: There are differences between the medical agencies (FDA, EMA etc.) world-wide, whether a drug is approved in their country or not. Even within Europe, although therapy protocols might be approved by the European Medical Agency (EMA), several countries have their own review organizations (i.e. NICE by the NHS) in order to evaluate whether the same therapy protocol would be “cost-effective”, so that patients face differences in the therapy protocols, particularly in the access of these drugs, which might be partially explained by the financial strength of the particular Health System.

Medical tourism most often is for surgeries (cosmetic or otherwise) or similar treatments, though people also travel for dental tourism or fertility tourism. People with rare conditions may travel to countries where the treatment is better understood. However, almost all types of health care are available, including psychiatry, alternative medicine, convalescent care, and even burial services.

Health tourism is a wider term for travel that focuses on medical treatments and the use of healthcare services. It covers a wide field of health-oriented tourism ranging from preventive and health-conductive treatment to rehabilitation and curative forms of travel. Wellness tourism is a related field.

Bali is already a world-renowned tourist destination, known as a tropical paradise thriving with its mixture of history, culture, natural beauty, lifestyle offerings and, in recent years, wellness opportunities. However, recent buzz suggests that the Balinese government are interested in exploring Bali’s potential as a medical tourism destination that can rival that of its neighbouring countries.

When you think of Bali, or Indonesia in general, a great healthcare system and top medical achievements aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind. Ironically, many Indonesian themselves (those who can afford it, at least) would prefer to cross over to neighbouring countries with excellent healthcare and medical services, such as Singapore or Japan.

Bali is already well-regarded as a top global destination for leisure, culture and wellness, but could it add medical tourism to that list as well? It is certainly clear that the island must add to and diversify its current industries, reducing its dependency on regular tourism, but does Bali have what it takes to become a renowned medical destination? If so, what needs to be done to achieve this and offer a service equal to (or better than) its neighbours?

With a history in healing, spirituality and more, Bali has built an outstanding reputation as a world-renowned wellness destination. Its reputation as one of Asia’s most exciting wellness markets stems from a combination of affordability, diversity, and innovation. In Bali, you’ll find that the variety of wellness offerings are limitless. From wellness retreats to rejuvenating spa treatments, there’s something for everybody. The spa industry in Bali thrives as one of the most notable wellness factions on the island, supported by its highly trained local therapists, rich local ingredients for spa products and the stunning natural landscape — one of the main selling points for spa centres with unique settings and views.

Most (if not all) of the prominent hotels in Bali are equipped with cutting-edge spa facilities. However, spa therapies are not limited to the high-end market as there are countless local spa and massage parlours throughout the island with affordable rates.

Bali’s big profitability in wellness tourism has long attracted many big international hospitality brands to take root on the island, including luxury brands such as Como Shambhala Estate and Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, which present wellness seekers with yoga and detox-driven experiences; as well as boutique retreats such as Fivelements Bali, which offers wellness retreats with curated plant-based meals and a variety of healing activities, and the fairly new Nusa Dua wellness retreat, REVĪVŌ Wellness Resort – Nusa Dua, Bali.

Additionally, Bali is known for its yoga centres and retreats, especially in the Ubud area which is regarded as the yoga epicentre of Bali. One of the most well-known and largest yoga centres is The Yoga Barn in Ubud, every avid yogi must have heard of this place. The Yoga Barn offers many workshops, training, and daily classes.

BaliSpirit Festival, the annual yoga festival in Ubud has been around for the past 13 years and is one of the biggest yoga festivals in the world. A haven for avid yoga practitioners, the festival has attracted thousands of attendees from all around the world who come to learn and experience not only yoga but the other activities offered including dance, meditation, music and breathwork. Then there is the fitness scene. Bali has many fitness centres, ranging from your usual gyms to Bootcamp workouts that are very much in trend today.

Popular today are fitness venues like CrossFit Wanderlust who offer a Bootcamp style workout, or F45 Training Seminyak who provide the ultimate gym experience by combining cutting-edge techniques with high-grade equipment. Finally, Bali has welcomed centres and destinations that present the latest in wellness offerings, from floatation tanks and ice baths to cryotherapy. Some examples include Terapung Float Club, The Istana in Uluwatu and Body Factory Bali in Canggu.

For these ideals to come into fruition, several things must be applied. Firstly, Bali must have affordable and high-quality medical services and facilities. If a vacation in Bali is affordable, then the cost of medical treatments in Bali should also be affordable. In countries such as Malaysia, the state regulates the standard of health services, provides subsidies for public hospitals, and sets limits on the medical costs of private hospitals. This is an example that could be applied here in Bali as well.

Additionally, Bali would need to develop the building of a single facility reputation, which builds and highlights Bali’s reputation as a medical tourism destination. For example, the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore is an esteemed and highly-regarded hospital in the country, which has an impeccable reputation as ‘the’ hospital to go to in Singapore. Therefore, Bali needs to have its own “hero” hospital/clinic like what the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore is in order to build its destination reputation because, without it, the idea of developing Bali into a medical tourism destination will falter.

Then, there should be integrated airport-hospital services and facilities that are provided, such as pick-up services, airport services, transportation from and to the airport to check-in at the hospital. It would be ideal for the hospital to provide a special lounge at the airport for international patients so that they can already experience the hospital services from the moment they arrive in Bali. There also needs to be hotel services provided at the hospital. Considering that the purpose of visiting tourists is for medical treatment, the advantage of seeking treatments in Bali is that they can enjoy treatment whilst enjoying the beautiful atmosphere of Bali.

Finally, a strong campaign to promote Bali as a medical tourism destination must be carried out. Awareness must be created; this can be done with the help of the minister of health and tourism working together to promote the hospitals in Bali throughout the world. The facilities provided can start from consulting prospect patients before coming to Bali, including providing possible itineraries.

Hospitals can take advantage of digital services by disclosing information and registrations in various languages. Developing Bali into a medical tourism destination will not be an easy task nor will it be quick. It will take years to develop because you must first build trust and reputation as an established and well-known medical tourism destination. If done correctly and efficiently, there’s no doubt that Bali could become a leading medical tourism destination known around the world.