Private hospitals are one of the businesses that have been severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreaks, especially private hospitals that are normally reliant on revenue from foreign patients through medical tourism. Like regular international travelers, medical tourists are presently unable to travel to Thailand to receive treatment. KResearch projects that, under the severe circumstances of the most recent wave of COVID-19, the Thai medical tourism market in 2021 will continue a declining trend that began last year, with the number of medical tourist arrivals amounting to around 10,000-20,000, or decreasing not less than 90 percent YoY. Markets that are expected to see the biggest contractions include the Middle East (i.e. the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia), China and ASEAN countries (Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos) which account for approximately 30 percent of total foreign patient revenues.
Meanwhile, 2022 is expected to be another difficult year for private hospitals that usually rely upon the medical tourism market. However, the speed of recovery for the market will depend on COVID-19 management and the efficiency of nationwide vaccination programs. If the third wave of COVID-19 can be resolved by the end of 2021 (with daily cases below 1,000 people and no report of new clusters), KResearch believes that medical tourists may gradually return to receive their medical treatment in Thailand. Under these circumstances, medical tourist arrivals are expected to be in the range of 130,000 -180,000, in 2022. The majority of medical tourists will likely be existing patients from the Middle East, Myanmar and China who have previously received treatment or health checks at Thai private hospitals. Nevertheless, close attention should be paid to the COVID-19 pandemic and its management in Thailand. Should the situation extend into 2022, anxiety may grow over any potential for market recovery, and the number of Thailand's inbound medical tourists could be less than previously forecast.