BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - With a luxury spa in central Bangkok, Singaporean Wei Siang Yu hopes to lure Thailand's latest tourist target: Couples needing a bit of extra magic to make babies.
Billed as "second-honeymoon" breaks, Dr Wei provides wellness treatments in tranquil surroundings designed to boost the chances of naturally conceiving and bearing a healthy child.
He has ambitions of hosting thousands of couples next year paying 30,000 yuan (S$5,965) each for a three-day programme, and reckons around half of them will travel from China.
"We see a huge market in this new topic of lifestyle modification, which requires a balance of body, mind and soul," said Dr Wei, a trained doctor who has fronted TV programmes in Singapore in the last decade such as Dr Love's Super Baby Making Show.
Thailand's fertility industry is chasing a new client: Chinese couples finally free to have more than one child.
The nation is already Asia's top destination for medical tourism thanks to quality treatments at reasonable prices combined with access to sun-soaked beach resorts.
Chinese travellers are an obvious target for new business, as they make up the bulk of overall visitors to Thailand, where tourism underpins a fifth of the economy. Having already ditched its one-child policy, China is planning to scrap all limits on the number of children a family can have in order to slow the pace of its ageing population.
Dr Wei is targeting the nation's women, whom he says have endured out-of-reach quality healthcare and an education system that insufficiently tackles reproductive health.
"Most healthcare operators are rushing to tap this vast market," said Dr Tanatip Suppradit, acting chief executive officer of Thonburi Healthcare Group, which is opening a US$93 million (S$128 million) fertility centre in Bangkok this month.
He added: "The reasonable costs, good service and beautiful nature will definitely make Thailand the top destination for Chinese couples seeking these services."
Bangkok Dusit Medical Services' shares have climbed about 20 per cent this year, thanks partly to medical tourism, helping it become the most valuable hospital operator in the developing world.
Foreign patients accounted for almost a third of sales and jumped 10 per cent in the first half of 2018 from a year earlier. Growth from China was 30 per cent.
Dr Wei, who is also the founder of the Borderless Healthcare Group, offers his pre-pregnancy package in contracted day-spa facilities and is planning a formal launch by the end of the year.
Initial social media promotion fronted by Dr Wei has already helped attract couples seeking the second-honeymoon experience, he said.
The facilities may eventually expand to include overnight accommodation - guests currently stay offsite.
"The couples are highly stressed because they have limited time to have a child before ageing complications set in," said Dr Wei. "The gene pool needs to be maintained." He added that many couples just lack the knowledge when it comes to doing the groundwork for a healthy birth.
Dr Wei and his rivals face a tough challenge. History shows that increased wealth and education gained as economies develop make it near impossible to stop birth rates from falling - regardless of government policies.
Singapore's 1980s campaign to incentivise families to have three or more children spurred a brief uptick in births before they declined further. China's decision three years ago to allow two-child families has not managed to boost baby numbers. Births fell 3.5 per cent to 17.2 million nationwide last year, according to the Bureau of National Statistics.
And divorces are showing more momentum than marriages. China's campaign to encourage couples to have more babies "probably gives them more stress, because their peers and the whole society are expecting some outcome", said Dr Wei. "So all this hasn't been easy."