Medical Tourism to Thailand Gets a Boost With New One-Year Visas

(Bloomberg) -- Thailand will start issuing one-year visas to people seeking medical treatment, as the Southeast Asian nation positions itself as a global hub for health-care tourism in the post-pandemic era.

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The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a proposal to lower the fee for such visas to 5,000 baht ($140) from 6,000 baht mooted a year earlier, Tipanan Sirichana, a deputy spokeswoman for the government, said in a statement. The new permits will be issued starting Jan. 1, she said.

The medical visas will allow foreign patients to fly in and out of Thailand besides allowing them a maximum stay of 90 days at a stretch, Tipanan said. Applicants will need to produce evidence of a hospital appointment, health insurance and proof of adequate financing for treatments covering at least 800,000 baht, she said.

Thailand is seeking to lure more foreign visitors in the post-Covid period by promoting itself as a world-class destination for medical treatment, with hospital operators such as Bangkok Dusit Medical Services Pcl and Bumrungrad Hospital Pcl leading the efforts.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy is also betting on a rebound in the tourism industry to power a growth recovery next year, the Bank of Thailand said this week. The country has seen a better-than-expected recovery in international arrivals after the government scrapped most of the restrictions on travel and businesses following an easing of the Covid outbreak.

The medical visas will be restricted to patients that require continuous treatment for more than 90 days, and hospitals will need to outline a concrete treatment plan and expenses for the applicants, Tipanan said. Applicants can seek an extension beyond one year only if they provide medical certificates.

Treatments for cardiovascular disease, cancer, organ transplants, anti-aging and cosmetic surgery could qualify for the new visas, she said.

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