Vietnam is beginning to seriously promote itself as a destination for medical tourism.
The government admits that 30,000 people go to other countries for medical treatment. Other sources say that even a higher figure of 40,000 people seeking medical help outside of Vietnam is probably too low. Many who stay in Vietnam do so because they cannot afford to travel abroad for treatment. Singapore, China and France are among the destinations.
So why is Vietnam now poised to become a regional player in this expanding market? The star destination in the country is Ho Chi Minh City, where few doctors or dentists speak English, but service is often immediate, relaxed and competent. And compared to America and other Asian countries, the prices are incredibly low.
Vietnam is undeniably an attractive destination but foreign tourists come to enjoy the natural beauty of the country rather than to have medical treatment, and most Vietnamese hospitals are overcrowded. The country is currently limited to offering hot springs, Chinese medicine and cosmetic surgery.
The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) has unveiled a plan to triple the number of Russian visitors from 100,000 last year to 300,000 by 2014. VNAT plans to participate in a series of fairs in Russia and organise road shows and publicity campaigns there. How many they can attract for medical tourism is unclear, while Russia and China are key target markets.