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Wellness tourism a gold mine for Vietnam to exploit

About 350,000 foreigners came to Vietnam in 2018 to obtain medical treatment, bringing $2 billion in turnover to the country, not to mention the money travelers spent on healthcare services during their trips.


People have mineral mud bath in Quang Nam


Truong Sy Vinh, Deputy Head of the Institute for Tourism Development Research, said medical tourism has become a popular type of tourism in India, Japan, China, Thailand and Indonesia.

Vietnam also has great potential to develop medical tourism thanks to its natural geographical conditions and achievements in traditional medicine. The country has discovered about 400 hot mineral water sources with temperature of 40-80oC which have therapeutic effects. The sources can also be exploited to make bottled mineral water.

Vietnam has an extremely rich and diverse system of medicinal plants, with 3,850 vegetation species and 406 animal species used as medicine. The Ministry of Health (MOH) has granted licenses to over 2,000 traditional medicine products manufactured by 450 traditional medicine establishments.

In addition to a rich system of historical relics, Vietnam also has many pagodas and original Zen monasteries with attractive landscapes which can be exploited for tourism development and tourism associated with meditation and yoga.

Dr Prof Nguyen Van Dinh cited a recent report as saying that Vietnam is becoming a new destination in Asia for medical tourism thanks to low travel costs, and inexpensive accommodations and medical labor force. It is competitive with hospitals in the US, Europe and other regional countries.

About 350,000 foreigners came to Vietnam to have medical examination and treatment, bringing turnover of $2 billion, in 2018.

It was estimated that tens of Vietnamese people traveled abroad for healthcare services a year before the Covid-19 pandemic broke, spending $2 billion.

Vu Nam, Deputy Director of the Tourism Market Department, said that wellness tourism (disease prevention, beauty service and cosmetic surgery) is a growing tendency. In the context of the pandemic, the demand for healthcare services will be increasing, which gives an opportunity to develop wellness tourism products.

Some provinces have exploited their advantages to develop medical tourism. The hot mineral springs in Kim Boi (Hoa Binh), Thanh Thuy in Phu Tho, Quang Hanh in Quang Ninh, My Lam in Tuyen Quang and My An in Thua Thien-Hue attract a high number of domestic travelers every year.

According to Khanh Hoa Tourism Department Director Nguyen Thi Le Thanh, there are seven hot mineral mud bath and spa service facilities in the province. Having a mud bath is a part of the tours to Khanh Hoa and a favorite of many travelers.

In Lao Cai, Deputy Director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the service of having bath with medicinal herbs with the formula of Red Dao ethnic minority is highly appreciated by tourists thanks to joint pain relief, blood pressure regulation and skin care.

According to Le Ngoc Tuong, Deputy Director of the Quang Nam Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, there are 830 kinds of food in the province which can be developed into herbal medicine, 30 of which have been approved by local authorities.

Ngoc Linh Gingseng is famous all over the country, while the national ginseng market day and the Nam Tra My herbal medicine area could be developed into medical tourism products.

Quang Nam also has five hot mineral water mines, including two that are operating. The provincial authorities are calling for investment in the locality.

However, Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, Deputy General Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), commented that medical tourism in Vietnam is still in the very early stage of development with few products which are not that special. In fact, there has been no thorough research on the potential for development of these tourism products in Vietnam.

Also according to Huong, Vietnam still doesn’t have criteria to build medical tourism products. It’s necessary to analyze how to develop medical tourism on a reasonable level so as to avoid problems with the Ministry of Health’s medical treatment. 

Ngoc Ha

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