Sabah to push health and wellness tourism


Dr Anil Kumar and Joniston Bangkuai with pro-tem committee members of the Sabah Health and Wellness Tourism Council.

KOTA KINABALU (June 15): A plan is in the works to establish the Sabah Health and Wellness Tourism Council (SHWTC) to market Sabah as a destination for medical tourism.

On Monday, its pro-tem committee led by Dr Anil Kumar met with the Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment Datuk Joniston Bangkuai to discuss the formation of the Council.

They had also invited Joniston, who chairs the Sabah Tourism Board (STB), to be the advisor of the Council.
Also present at the meeting was STB chief executive officer Noredah Othman.

Dr Anil, who is Medisinar managing director, said the SHWTC act as a one-stop centre for all matters related to the health paradigm.

“The council aims to provide impetus and focus to place Sabah health and wellness tourism on the world stage.

“We have the infrastructures and facilities. It will be a new market as far as tourism is concerned for the state of Sabah, bringing high revenue.

“We want to collaborate with the Sabah Tourism Board on how we can effectively advertise this area and attract people from neighbouring countries, particularly the BIMP-EAGA region, to seek health and wellness treatment in Sabah,” he said.

Joniston gave an assurance that the STB would work closely with members of the local medical community to make Sabah a choice of destination for health care tourism.

“Other states, like Penang and Malacca, already have their state healthcare tourism councils, so the move is timely. Accordingly, this is also in line with STB’s efforts to attract high-end travellers.

“We’ve had success in other sectors of tourism, such as rural tourism, and there’s no reason why Sabah can’t do the same in medical tourism.

“We must work closely together to achieve the goal, develop strategic plans to promote health care services here, and look at prospective target markets, especially when Nusantara is set to become Indonesia’s new capital,” he said.

Joniston suggested that the SHWTC consider including representatives from relevant government and private agencies as members.

Meanwhile, Noredah mentioned that the Sabah Tourism Board has started promoting its medical tourism through the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council.

Nevertheless, she stated that STB was prepared to get on board with SHWTC to exchange experience and skills to develop a viable package for medical tourism in the state.

“It is essential to have local medical practitioners who can educate our stakeholders such as hoteliers and tour operators on the various healthcare options that are available to tourists.

“Sabah Tourism Board will be happy to collaborate with SHTWC to conduct a workshop for tourism players to increase their awareness on the offerings for medical tourism in the State,” she said.

Council pro-tem committee members present were Commonwealth Pharmacists Association vice-president Datuk Nancy Ho; Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents chairman Datuk Seri Winston Liaw; Malaysian Spas Association president Datin Jeanette Tambakau; Gleneagles Hospital Kota Kinabalu chief executive officer Dr Tan Bee Hwai; and Sabah Credit Cooperation chief executive officer George Taitim Tulas.