From spa treatments to Botox injections

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VISITING a foreign country is not only for leisure but also for taking care of one’s health. That is what Desy Atmaja did when she visited Malaysia. “I usually go to Bali for my holidays, but this time I chose Malaysia,” said Desy, an account director at an advertising agency in Jakarta.

Desy had often heard that the Malaysian government was serious about turning the country into a wellness destination. It believes spas, which most star-rated hotels have — can provide lots of revenue for the government.

Medical tours are not an entirely new concept because other countries, such as Japan, Singapore and several European countries, have spas. However, Malaysia with its vast potential as a wellness destination has become quite competitive and currently attracts 400,000 visitors annually from neighboring countries Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore for spa treatments.

Spa is an abbreviation of the Latin term solus per aqua meaning curing or recovery using water and was introduced in 400 BC in Rome. Spas offer a combination of treatments that may include hydrotherapy, thermotherapy, electrotherapy, massage, reflexology, color therapy, music therapy, therapy using traditional herbs, diet therapy, meditation and so forth.

Compared to Indonesia, especially Bali, spas in Malaysia actually lag behind the facilities and services provided here, but in the past five years Malaysia has revamped its spa industry to turn it into a major contributor to tourism revenue.

It is undeniable that more foreign tourists go to Malaysia for medical, health and beauty care. Although this sector of the Malaysian tourist industry is not as advanced as in neighboring countries, significant and rapid improvements are being made and soon the country may catch up to its neighbors.

Malaysia is the world’s third most popular medical tourism destination. Data from Nuwire Investors online on real estate and investment opportunities indicates that Malaysia is also considered a good place for investment based on the quality of its services and capability in providing health services as well as its willingness to accept foreign investors.

Malaysia offers a number of health and medical services that includes dental, cosmetic procedures and heart surgery, all of which cost far less than in the US. Foreign tourists who visit the country for medical reasons and investors are attracted to Malaysia due to its favorable currency exchange, economic and political stability and the highly educated population.

Currently, no fewer than 35 private hospitals and 300 exclusive clinics provide services to medical tourists. All these complement the country’s various health tourism components, such as spas, hot springs, traditional medicines, acupuncture, traditional massage and herbal products.

The reason many tourists visit Malaysia for health and medical purposes is that it provides high quality services and facilities at comparably lower prices than other countries.  Not only is a complete range of spas available in Malaysia but also everything to do with physical appearance, such as chemical peeling, Botox injections to reduce wrinkles, nose and eye surgery, fillers around the nose, cheeks and lips, and a complete range of dental care. There is also liposuction as well as body sculpting.

In short, for middle and upper income earners who are aware of the importance of holistic care, Malaysia is indeed an ideal place to find such services and facilities at a lower cost. (Reyhan Fabiano)

The Jakarta Post, August 30, 2010

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