The world feels like it’s been turned upside down, dropped off a cliff, then kicked around a car park for the last eighteen months, and unless you’ve been living under a rock, in a cave on top of a remote mountain somewhere or hiding in Bikini Bottom with Spongebob Squarepants, you’ve probably been scared senseless with the fear that’s been going on.
In a place like Bali, which has been overly dependent on tourism to drive its economy, this fear has quite literally switched off revenue streams. Once thriving hotels, resorts, restaurants, cafes and entertainment venues have closed down, or down-sized, leaving many out of work and a not so quiet sense of desperation for those whose livelihoods depended so strongly on tourist dollars. And, unfortunately, it’s anybody’s guess when (if ever) this situation will return to ‘normal.’ That is, if ‘normal’ is where you want to even get back to.
Adapt and Thrive
We’ve been suggesting for a few years that it’s not a smart idea to put all of your eggs into one basket because imagine what would happen if that basket of eggs scrambled. To be fair, local and central governments have also been aware of the dangers of a narrow customer base and one of the options that were being seriously explored before COVID-19 hit was, ironically, in the Medical Tourism sector. What’s happening now in Bali double-underscores this necessity for a paradigm shift and a change of mindset to adapt and grow. And just for the record, this need to adapt to new situations is as applicable to other parts of this amazing archipelago.
The Business of Medicine
Medical Tourism is one solution. In Asia, it’s big business and Bali is seriously mulling over offering Medical Tourism as a viable alternative in the luxury healthcare space. In an article we published in Gapura Bali, we referred to a report by Grand View Research Inc., that “the global Medical Tourism market is likely to be worth more than US$131 billion a year by 2025 and in the field of elective surgery, such as cosmetic surgery, Asia was leading the way.”
More recently, Bisnis Bali have been reporting that Chairman of the Bali Medical Tourism Association (BMTA), Dr. I Gede Wiryana Patra Jaya, M.Kes suggested that before COVID-19, almost Rp160 trillion a year was being spent by Indonesians for medical treatment overseas, particularly in Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore, which, he argues, could just as easily be spent in Indonesia.
As a destination for Medical Tourism, there is no doubt Bali has significant potential, but Medical Tourism is a tough market, with exceptionally high standards and serious liabilities, so when the playing field is as challenging as this one clearly is, Bali really needs a unique selling proposition to get ahead rather than copying what the competition is doing.
The Future is Holistic
This is where the idea of Wellness Tourism and Holistic Health comes in. According to Dr. Prem Jagyasi, a leading expert in Medical Tourism, Wellness Tourism, Wellness Resorts and Global Healthcare, there’s an important difference between Medical Tourism and Wellness Tourism; Medical Tourism is basically people travelling to another country for treatment for any ailment or for undergoing some form of cosmetic procedure, while Wellness Tourism is different because it’s when people travel to proactively pursue mental health activities as well as physical activities, which assist in prevention, maintaining and enhancing wellbeing and personal health.
Generally, Medical Tourists are looking for high-quality care at affordable prices, which may not be available in their home country while Wellness Tourists are looking for authentic and location-centric therapies, or experiences, that are not accessible in their home country. And this is something Indonesia, not just Bali, has in spades. In fact, Bali has more than 3,000 traditional wellness centres and spas according to the Head of the Bali Health Agency, Ketut Suarjaya. The problem is, only about 10-percent of these comply with the agency’s standards. Imagine if that number were closer to 70 percent, because if standards and structures were improved Bali would be set to take advantage of a growing wellness trend.
Foreign and Domestic Travel Trends
Ian Youngman, a healthcare and insurance industry analyst writing for the International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ), suggested before COVID-19 that, “Wellness Tourism is taking off and with incredible growth that is overshadowing Medical Tourism. A rising global middle class, increasing consumer desire to adopt a wellness lifestyle, and a growing interest in experiential travel has stimulated the rapid growth of Wellness Tourism around the world.” Even though the negative effects on travel brought on by a global pandemic are likely to impact this optimistic forecast for foreign visitors to Indonesia, we mustn’t forget the potential of Indonesia’s domestic market, which is enormous.
My business partner and CEO of Seven Stones Indonesia, Terje Nilsen, sums things up nicely. He sees this trend towards health and wellness as something savvy investors and developers should be taking very seriously. “There are some spectacular locations to build health and wellness facilities or modify existing properties such as resorts in Bali as well as on the islands to the east,” he says. “And considering there’s such a strong global demand, Bali could well create a very sophisticated and lucrative niche in the region through Holistic Healing and Wellness Tourism. Let’s also remember the positive impact this would have on local communities because, without them, there is no future.”
At Seven Stones Indonesia, we’re encouraging our partners to use this time to adapt and consolidate their investments; to streamline and restructure and look at smarter business streams like Holistic Healing and Wellness Tourism. We offer a range of market entry services, including company registration and product licensing, to help you do just that. If your business needs some help and advice on how to adjust to this paradigm shift in a positive way let us know how we can help by sending an email to: [email protected]
Sources: Bisnis Bali, Gapura Bali, Coconuts Bali, Grand View Research Inc., Travel Wire News, RNCOS, Tribun Bali, Tribun News, Newsmaker, Medical Departures, Forbes, The Jakarta Post, Bali Post, DDTC News