Grab tourist trips to and from medical facilities surge 500%

An analysis of Grab passenger travel patterns by the company showed that medical facilities were the third most visited location by tourists, based on the number of pick-ups and drop-offs Grab charted for its tourist passengers.
An analysis of Grab passenger travel patterns by the company showed that medical facilities were the third most visited location by tourists, based on the number of pick-ups and drop-offs Grab charted for its tourist passengers.PHOTO: ST FILE

Firm's study of travel patterns shows these facilities to be third-most visited by tourists

Trips to and from hospitals and medical centres in Singapore by tourist passengers on ride-hailing firm Grab's app have increased 500 per cent from 2015 to last year.

An analysis by Grab of its passengers' travel patterns 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 the firm charted for its tourist passengers.

South-east Asian tourists made up 63 per cent of all Grab tourist 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 ranked the most attractive out of seven Asian countries for patient experience.

Grab started its operations in Singapore in 2013.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic 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 (an inexpensive place) and neighbouring countries can offer healthcare at a lower price," said Dr Chiam, adding that it is possible the increase was due to a rise in Grab's ridership.

 
 
 

"Based on my observations, hospitals actually help to promote the use of Grab by including it in the list of travel services that patients can call if they need a ride, which might explain the growth," he said.

But most of Grab's data aligns with what he knows about tourists' travel patterns in Singapore.

The Orchard Road area and Marina Bay Sands - well-known shopping and recreational places here - were the top two favourite locations among tourists.

The HarbourFront and Kallang areas - where VivoCity and Kampong Glam are respectively sited - followed close behind in terms of shopping. Entertainment and sightseeing spots such as Clarke Quay, the Singapore Zoo and Resorts World Sentosa were also hits with visiting foreigners.

Dr Chiam said Orchard Road and Marina Bay Sands likely topped the list of destinations that tourists visit as they are both the main attractions of Singapore.

Commenting on why HarbourFront ranked so high on the list, he said: "HarbourFront is a popular location because tourists heading to Sentosa drop off there, since going to the island by private transport incurs a surcharge. It is popular also because there's a ferry terminal for travelling to other islands."

Newton Food Centre was the most sought-after dining location on the Grab app. Chijmes, which like the food centre was featured in the 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, India and the United States formed the next largest group of tourists collectively.

After landing in Changi Airport, close to 90 per cent of travellers headed straight 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.

Dr Chiam noted that while Kallang is not known for its hotel scene, the Kallang-Lavender area is where Kampong Glam is.

Even though Kampong Glam does not have a dedicated MRT station nearby, he said, it has many budget accommodation options such as hostels, so it is not surprising that the Kallang area is popular with tourists.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2018, with the headline 'Grab tourist trips to and from medical facilities surge 500%'. Print Edition | Subscribe