SINGAPORE - Trips to and from hospitals and medical centres in Singapore by tourist passengers on ride-hailing company Grab's app have increased 500 per cent from 2015 to 2017.
An analysis of Grab passenger travel patterns by the company showed that medical facilities - both public and private - were the third most visited location by tourists, based on the number of pick-ups and drop-offs Grab charted for its tourist passengers.
South-east Asian tourists made up 63 per cent of all Grab tourists passengers. They were also the largest group of tourists who visited healthcare facilities here.
According to data from a medical tourism index released in May last year, Singapore was also ranked the most attractive out of seven Asian countries last year for patient experience.
Grab started its operations in Singapore in 2013.
Ngee Ann Polytechnic's senior tourism lecturer Michael Chiam was surprised by the 500 per cent growth cited by Grab.
"Medical tourism definitely did not increase by 500 per cent. We are not cheap and neighbouring countries can offer healthcare at a lower price,"said Dr Chiam, adding that it is possible that the increase is due to a rise in Grab's ridership.
"Based on my observations, hospitals actually help to promote the use of Grab by including Grab in the list of travel services that patients can call if they need a ride, which might explain the growth."
But most of Grab's data aligns with what Dr Chiam knows about tourists' travel patterns in Singapore.
Well-known shopping and recreational locations here - the Orchard Road area and Marina Bay Sands - were the top two favourite locations among tourists. The HarbourFront and Kallang areas - where VivoCity and Kampong Glam are - followed close behind.
Aside from shopping, entertainment and sightseeing spots like Clarke Quay, the Singapore Zoo and Resorts World Sentosa were also hits with visiting foreigners.
Dr Chiam said that Orchard Road and Marina Bay Sands likely top the list of destinations tourists visit as they are both the main attractions of Singapore which see a high concentration of tourists.
"HarbourFront is a popular location for tourists heading to Sentosa since going into Sentosa by private transport will incur a surcharge. It also has a ferry terminal going to other islands," he added.
Newton Food Centre was also the most sought-after dining location on the Grab app. Chijmes, which like the food centre was featured in the hit movie Crazy Rich Asians, was another popular dining spot, along with Chinatown.
Grab's data also showed that aside from South-east Asian tourists, visitors from China, the United States and India formed the next largest group of tourists collectively.
After landing in Changi Airport, close to 90 per cent of travellers chose to go to hotels, Grab's data showed, and most were ferried to accommodations in the city-centre, comprising the Downtown, Singapore River, Orchard, Bugis and Kallang areas.
While Kallang is not known for its hotel scene, Dr Chiam said that the Kallang-Lavender area is where Kampong Glam is sited.
He noted that while Kampong Glam does not have a dedicated MRT station nearby, it has many budget accommodations like hostels, so it is not surprising that the Kallang area is popular with tourists.