CEBU, Philippines - The lack of international exposure dampens Cebu’s competitive advantage in attracting medical tourists from around the world.
"We are very much behind in marketing medical tourism. We have to send a message to the world that we are better than other countries," said Clarissa Jane Pe of Cebu Health and Wellness Council (CHWC).
Pe, who was the resource speaker during the meeting organized by the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (ECCP-Visayas) on the current status of the medical tourism industry in Cebu, expressed the industry's frustration on the kind of support the government is giving to the medical tourism players here.
She cited the recent fair held in Berlin, Germany, where the Philippines had the smallest booth in promoting the country’s medical tourism and retirement.
"What they [government] are doing and talking about are different from what is happening," added Pe.
The opening of more big hospitals, with world-class and high quality standard equipment and services in Cebu, is just one of the many confirmations that Cebu is at par with medical tourism hubs like Thailand.
At present, the Philippines is the third medical tourism hub in Asia, next to Thailand and Singapore. But, according to Pe, the Philippines has dozens of advantages over these two leading destinations, but letting the world (market) know is the number one challenge it has to resolve.
Thailand and Singapore have at least one million medical tourists a year. The Philippines on the other hand only registered only a quarter of a million.
Although the players, at least in Cebu are actively cooperating to maximize the potential of the province to entire more medical tourists, as the same time retirees, it has to have a strong government support, specifically in promotion and much friendly policies.
The Philippines has been rising as a top tourist destination among Europeans, Asians and other countries. Coupled with the fact that the aging population of the world is projected to reach nearly 17 percent (1.6 billion) by 2050, the Philippines is at a cusp to position itself as a haven for retirement, wellness and medical tourism.