【英语中国】医疗旅游,台湾欢迎你

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2010-12-9 00:41

小艾摘要: For years Taiwan's citizens and tourists alike have been bemused by the tourism bureau's motto -- 'Taiwan, Touch Your Heart.' But with the island's government pushing to attract a new class of tourist ...
For years Taiwan's citizens and tourists alike have been bemused by the tourism bureau's motto -- 'Taiwan, Touch Your Heart.' But with the island's government pushing to attract a new class of tourists, the phrase may soon start to seem more apt.

Speaking to reporters over the weekend, President Ma Ying-jeou said the government planned to get serious about drawing visitors to the island, not for its night market eats or museums, but to undergo medical procedures like heart surgery or fertility treatment. The announcement represents a potential turning point in Taiwan's efforts to grab a slice of the US$40 billion medical tourism market.

Around 90,000 people flew to Taiwan last year for medical reasons, which was about only 1% of the island's medical revenue. But a look at some of the island's more aggressive neighbors shows there's plenty of room for growth: Singapore hosted 410,000 'medical travelers' in 2009, while Bumrungrad in Thailand also received 400,000 foreign patients that year, according to Patients Without Borders, a Boston-based agency advocating global medical tourism.

Taiwan has been slow to take advantage of growth in medical tourism thanks largely to a combination of poor promotion and planning with fears of inviting contagious diseases from abroad.

In an effort to make Taiwan more competitive in the market, Mr. Ma said, medical tourism would soon be handled by a new committee at the legislature level--much higher than the department of health, which had previously been responsible for the sector but isn't powerful enough to coordinate international policy-making within the government.

Ma also pledged to increase funding for international marketing, although he didn't say by how much.

Taiwan's government has pumped around NT$15 million, or roughly US$493,830, into a government-backed taskforce on medical tourism every year since its inception in 2007. That funding -- which is intended to cover all international marketing activities in addition to the taskforce's daily operating expenses â ' is piddling compared to Singapore, whose government earmarks around US$100 million for the management and promotion of medical tourism every year.

With restrictions on mainland Chinese tourists fast diminishing, the island could see a surge in medical tourists. Given growing wealth in Chinaâ 'and, since mainland Chinese pay in yuan, the potential for foreign-exchange gains--the windfall for Taiwan could be huge.

'When people talk about Taiwan, they think of its food, but not its healthcare services,' Patients Without Borders' chairman Josef Woodman told China Real Time. 'What you need to do is to promote, promote and promote.'

Wu Ming-yeh, a physician who is also secretary of the taskforce on medical tourism, said: 'Hopefully, with the increased funding, we can put ads in newspapers overseas, which will certainly help promote us.'

Taiwan has the attributes of a good medical tourism destination -- it is safe, located a few hours by plane from other major Asian cities, and boasts a number of western-trained doctors who speak English. In an effort to leverage Taiwan's easy accessibility by air, the government has announced plans to build a NT$2 billion medical facility near the Taoyuan international airport, although investors have yet to be found for the project.

First, though, the island has a more basic change to make: 'They could put up more signs in English inside the hospitals and launch English Web sites detailing their services and pricing.'

Aries Poon

台湾观光局打出的“台湾,触动你心”(Taiwan, Touch Your Heart)的口号多年来一直让本地人和游客有些不知所云。不过随着政府采取措施吸引一类特殊游客前来台湾,这句话或许很快就会显得恰当起来。

Associated Press台湾领导人马英九(Ma Ying-jeou)上周末对记者说,台湾政府准备认真思考如何吸引游客一事,此处的游客并非指那些来台湾逛夜市或博物馆的人,而是指专门到台湾接受心脏手术或生育治疗等医疗服务的人。马英九的此番讲话或许会为台湾在争夺规模400亿美元的全球医疗旅游市场份额方面带来转机。

去年约有9万人因医疗原因前往台湾,而这部分收入仅占台湾医疗收入总额的1%。不过纵观台湾周边一些国家和地区对医疗旅游业更加积极的投入就可发现,台湾在这方面还有很大的增长空间。据总部位于美国波士顿的一家提倡全球医疗旅游的机构“患者无国界”(Patients Without Borders)的数据显示,2009年前往新加坡的“医疗游客”人数达41万,而同年泰国康民医院(Bumrungrad)收治的外籍病人也多达40万。

在抓住全球医疗旅游增长机会方面,台湾一直动作迟缓,这在很大程度上要归咎于其宣传和规划不力,他们害怕推进医疗旅游会将国外的传染病招至台湾。

为使台湾的医疗旅游市场更有竞争力,马英九说,医疗旅游业很快将由一个具有立法权力的新委员会负责,其级别明显高于早先曾负责该产业发展的台湾卫生部。台湾卫生部因权力不够大,无法协调台湾政府内部有关该产业的国际决策。

此外,马英九还承诺将增加用于医疗旅游产业国际营销的资金,不过未具体说明增加数额。

自2007年成立由政府扶持的台湾医疗旅游工作组以来,台湾政府每年向其投入约1,500万新台币(约合493,830美元)。这笔资金不仅包括该工作组的日常经费,还包括其所有国际营销费用。跟新加坡相比,这笔资金显得有如九牛一毛。新加坡政府每年拨款约1亿美元,专门用于旅游医疗的管理和宣传。

随着台湾方面快速放开对大陆游客的限制,台湾或许会出现医疗游客暴增的现象。鉴于大陆民众富裕程度增加且以人民币作为支付货币,台湾未来在外汇方面可能得到较大收益。

患者无国界的主席伍德曼(Josef Woodman)对《华尔街日报》“中国实时报”栏目记者说,人们谈起台湾时,想到的是台湾美食,而不是其医疗服务,所以台湾要做的就是宣传、宣传、再宣传。

台湾医师兼政府医疗旅游工作组秘书Wu Ming-yeh说,随着给工作组拨付更多资金,我们可有望在海外的报纸上登广告,这当然会有助于宣传台湾的医疗旅游。

台湾具有成为一个完美医疗旅游目的地的全部特点:安全、地理位置优越(从亚洲主要城市只需几个小时即可飞抵台湾)以及具有一大批会说英语且受过西方教育的医生。为充分发挥台湾航空交通便捷的特点,台湾政府宣布计划在桃园国际机场附近修建价值20亿新台币的医疗设施,虽然目前尚未找到愿投资该项目的投资者。

不过,台湾首先需要做出更为基础的改变,例如可以在医院张贴更多英文标识,并推出相关英文网站,详细说明其服务和价格。

Aries Poon

(本文版权归道琼斯公司所有,未经许可不得翻译或转载。)

关键词:医疗旅游  台湾  旅游  

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