Friday, June 21

‘New airport good for medical tourism’

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SIBU: The much-awaited medical tourism is given a timely boost with the commissioning of the new multi-million ringgit airport terminal building here.

Beaming with rekindled hope, local healthcare professionals expressed optimism that this could be the start of something new for the medical tourism, as the improved facility would provide the needed ‘runway’ for the industry to take off.

But, they all agreed that collective efforts from the government and private sector would be necessary to thrust the medical tourism industry forward.

One of them, chief executive officer of ITA college of nursing Datuk Seri Dr Benny Lee reckoned that the new airport terminal building complemented by full-fledged medical facilities and direct international flights
would give the industry a head start.

“The thing is, you see, the impressive new airport terminal building provides the catalyst to entice this specific segment of tourists to the riverine town.

“The excellent facilities that come with a state-of-the-art design would convenience tourists seeking medical treatment here,” Lee said yesterday, stressing it was a combination of factors that would make medical tourism flourish.

He explained: “The new airport terminal building is the starting point and it has to be backed by best healthcare service.

“This means a fully fledged medical facility accompanied with the latest medical equipment, and medical specialist teams.”

He believed having direct international flights would help grow the medical tourism as foreign investors would be attracted to invest in the industry.

He further suggested that attractive tour packages could be created to target this segment of tourists.

“In fact, after seeking treatment, these visitors may want to go sight-seeing to take advantage of their trip to Sibu. For starters, our night market could be a place of interest for them.

“When these people shop, it will help stimulate the economy of the town. A visitor can easily spend on average a few thousand ringgit here and this certainly augurs well for all facets of industry here. So you see, it is a combination of factors that make medical tourism work,” he enthused.

Lee recalled in Australia, tourism and education sectors topped the list as main revenue generators for the country down under.

A senior private medical practitioner Dr Hu Chang Hock too felt the improved facility could provide opportunity for medical tourism to grow.

He recalled the topic of medical tourism was talked about some 10 years back, but had yet to really pick up.

Seeing more rosy prospects ahead, Dr Hu said Sibu has two private medical centres, a well equipped government hospital and private clinics collectively.

He described the airport as the symbol of progress, commitment towards all facets of development and a landmark as well as the first contact point with tourists.

It is here the tourists would shape their perception of the place, he said.

“The people of Sibu are very thankful to Local Government and Community Development and Second Finance Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, who had worked very hard in ensuring that the facility became a reality to benefit the people and bring about more progress,” Dr Hu lauded.

In general, he figured the mushrooming of shopping malls in part would also help spur the tourism industry.

Dr Hu noted the town, blessed with good hotels and convention facilities, could now take pride for having successfully rolled out big functions, including National Early Childhood Intervention Conference and Nursing and Allied Health Conference here recently.

He disclosed he had received positive feedback on this.

Meanwhile, the new airport terminal building started operating end of last month.

The RM136 million project, consisting of 18 check-in counters, eight immigration counters in the departure hall and six immigration counters in the arrival hall, nine security (X-ray machines), four custom counters, two baggage reclaim carousels, two make-up carousels and four passenger boarding bridges.