Much has been discussed on the prospects and challenges in promoting ‘medical+tourism’ in Macau. As a niche tourism sector, there are obstacles to address, chief amongst these is combining and reaching consensus between the medical and hospitality professions and required resources – part of the formation of an overall business strategy for medical tourism in Macau. With pioneer case studies to show the success of medical tourism and the various resources required to establish this city image, there are certainly reference cities for Macau – but as in any tourism product, it is the provision of medical tourism in Macau that is distinctive, professional, and appealing – and building on these city image perceptions.
The diagnosis and treatment of serious illnesses and reproductive aid are among the leading projects for Macau’s medical tourism from a list of global medical tourism initiatives. The Macau Government invited the Peking Union Medical College Hospital to jointly operate and manage the new outlying island medical complex. This new medical complex will be the first in Macau to provide across-the-board health-oriented services. This responds to the Macau population medical needs as well, and is also strategically placed within the Cotai Strip, adjacent to the integrated resorts.
Macau has been advancing on private medical services for some time. The city’s citizens are eligible for ongoing medical subsidies, and many in the private sector such as the integrated resorts will cover medical expenses as part of their employee benefits packages. According to government data, there are just over 700 private clinics in Macau, providing over 95% of the city’s outpatient medical services. Private health care has also expanded in mainland China. 67% of medical facilities provide private hospitality according to the China Health Care Development Statistical Bulletin. Given that mainland Chinese are a key visitor segment, the level of Macau’s medical tourism success will be on its own distinctiveness, service quality delivery, and ability to compete with medical tourism choices domestically or regionally for mainland Chinese.
There are four notable features to build as a foundation for advancing Macau’s medical tourism prospects. First, is the global perspective where Macau provides overseas medications, medical services, and medical equipment. Second, traditional Chinese medicine has a rich history and culture in Macau, as well as a wealth of traditional knowledge and expertise, all of which can make a highly attractive proposition to target both local and international visitors. A government-regulated alternative medicine market has already proved attractive within medical tourism. Studies have shown that Macau could be an ideal destination for Chinese outbound visitors especially interested in medical tourism activities, supported in part by an easier visa process. Traditional Chinese medicine has been elevated to greater importance within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA). The Institute of Chinese Medicine was created by the University of Macau in 2002, and the National Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Traditional Chinese Medicine was formally founded in early 2011, assisted by the University of Macau and the Macau University of Science and Technology, to encourage the growth of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) research. Combining the TCM schools within existing hotel services could bring new economic and niche tourism growth.
Third, Macau has a large selection of luxury accommodation, with 22 Forbes five-star hotels in 2023, the most of any city globally. These hospitality conditions and luxury amenities and services, when aligned to medical treatments, can provide an appealing and distinctive setting for medical tourism development, allowing guests to relax, heal and recuperate after treatment. All-inclusive packages are common features of Macau’s luxury hotel offerings, with medical tourism being another tailored package. While the hotels have large rooms and comfortable settings, additional services might be needed for post-recovery, such as dietary requirements, including some specialized training for hotel staff.
Fourth, medical tourism can advance Macau’s own medical standards and medical standing in the region, through cutting-edge medical technology, innovations, and treatment options, attracting more medical professionals and talent, fostering medical exchanges and collaboration, and building on the trust and confidence of medical tourists.
The introduction and advancement of medical tourism in Macau is a longer-term initiative given the resources, talent, technology investment, and infrastructure required. With medical tourism, the primary motive will be health and wellness, but additional leisure activities could be packaged around the stay, creating longer periods of visitation and spending across sectors. While the gaming industry is tasked with developing and providing capital for medical tourism development in Macau, the specialist nature of this niche sector will certainly require the collaboration of many in the private and public sectors to make it a success.