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Malaysia tries to parlay appeal to Muslim visitors into medical tourism push

Published on Jul 30, 2014 5:20 AM

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Muslim tourists have long chosen Malaysia, its beaches and its malls as a holiday destination thanks to cultural affinity. Now it wants to parlay its visitor dividend into a bid to overtake its neighbours for the world's medical tourism crown.

Malaysia seeks to appeal to less affluent patients with reasonably priced treatments. But figures show it has some ground to make up on Thailand and Singapore in boosting its share of an industry that generates US$38 billion to US$55 billion annually.

Malaysia is a new player in the market, competing with experienced, branded names. But it is quickly attracting the attention of patients, earning third place for "best and most affordable healthcare" by International Living, a lifestyle magazine.

"Thailand's pricing is not attractive any more and Singapore can't cope with the flood of patients", said M Jacob Thomas, president of the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia. "We are one of the easiest countries to enter. Most foreigners don't need to fill in a landing form."

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