AS CEBU continues to enjoy the patronage of foreign visitors, the island province is seen likely to become a major player in the Philippines’ emerging medical tourism sector.
Dr. Teodoro Gonzales, Maayo Medical chief executive officer, said Cebu is already a bustling tourism destination given its strategic location at the central part of the country.
“We are also expecting a new airport (terminal) next year, which is only 15 to 20 minutes away from our facility. We also have a hotel. These are the things that will attract tourists to come us, whether for medical treatments or vacation,” he said in a press briefing during the opening of Maayo Medical in Mandaue City on Wednesday.
Cebu welcomed 4.1 million tourists between January to December 2016, with Korea, Japan, and the US being its top foreign markets for the period.
Foreign visitor arrivals are also expected to increase in the province as the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) opens its new passenger terminal by June of next year, a project aimed at increasing the gateway’s capacity to 12 million annually from the current 4.5 million.
Gonzales said they are looking at all possible angles to serve the tourist market, especially the Japanese and Koreans who come to Cebu to learn English.
He said these students would eventually need healthcare services and, Maayo would be here to offer them those services.
Aside from foreigners, Gonzales said they also want to attract patients from other parts of the Visayas, Mindanao, and even as far as Luzon.
The launch of Maayo Medical signals the Primary Group of Builders’ entry into the health business, in a bid to “address the gap between the quality of our graduates and the quality of our medical facilities.”
It is also the company’s first venture into the hospitality industry, as the more than 250-room Maayo Hotel just beside the medical facility is set to open by the last quarter of 2017.
The company was estimated to have spent “more than one billion pesos” for the medical facility and hotel located at the corner of UN Avenue and Plaridel Street in Mandaue City.Maayo Medical, which will be the lynchpin that will tie together the other elements of the “health and hospitality hub” concept that underlies this recent project, aspires to be “the healthcare provider of choice in Southeast Asia.”
Maayo Medical, which will be the lynchpin that will tie together the other elements of the “health and hospitality hub” concept that underlies this recent project, aspires to be “the healthcare provider of choice in Southeast Asia.”
A step in that direction is the Department of Health’s endorsement of the medical center as a medical tourism facility, the first outside of Manila.
Gonzales said they want to be recognized in the region since this is where major medical tourism facilities are located, particularly in Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia.
To achieve this goal, Maayo Medical invested heavily in innovative health systems and the latest medical equipment, and housed these in a modern building that will achieve LEED gold status.
Gonzales said they set the standards high this time to adapt to the Asean integration, which he said will facilitate the easier setting up of businesses by multinationals here in the Philippines in a few years’ time.
“If we don’t prepare, we’ll see multinationals setting up here, leaving us with nowhere to go,” he said.
What makes the country such an attractive medical tourism destination is that it has most of the service facilities offer in Western countries and the rest of Asia, but at 50 to 70 percent less the price.
Cebu businessman Edwin Ortiz, director of the Tourism Promotions Board, an attached agency of the Department of Tourism, said the new facility is an asset to Cebu and Philippine tourism, consistent with one of its thrusts, which is medical and dental tourism.
“Just lately, I met an Australian couple in a resort in Mactan who told me that they are here for medical treatment because they heard that there are a lot of good Filipino doctors and that cost for treatment is much cheaper than in their home country,” Ortiz said.
He added that one can have treatment and still afford a resort vacation after.
Cebu stands out for the uniquely Filipino hospitality healthcare providers here offer as well as the high level of English communication skills medical staff have, which most of the Philippines’ neighbors in the region lack.
But Gonzales also warned that the country’s current political situation and ongoing conflict in Mindanao could project a bad image to tourists and discourage them from coming here.
Nonetheless, Gonzales said he was optimistic “things will get better.”