Stakeholders say their piece
By Ho Jia Wen
Last November, the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Industry Blueprint 2021-2025 was launched to make healthcare travel the nation's key export by 2025. Healthcare travel or medical tourism is when foreigners come to Malaysia for healthcare that is unavailable in their home country or for more affordable healthcare. Having one of the most advanced medical sectors in the Asia Pacific region, Malaysia has been attracting many foreigners via medical tourism.
According to Far Capital chief executive officer Faizul Ridzuan, the blueprint is advantageous for Malaysia, as Healthcare travel is a niche market that Malaysia is capable of targeting and expanding. It would also highlight Malaysia as a sought after retirement destination, and the income generated will be significantly higher.
Both Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association (Rehda) acting president Datuk NK Tong and Pejuang Hartanah founder Ahyat Ishak see the blueprint as advantageous for the property industry.
“Covid has really hindered the property industry, and anything that would contribute to the property industry and create that demand is very welcomed,” said Ahyat.
“Though the property industry may not be directly or immediately impacted by the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Industry Blueprint, it is an effort to open up and make Malaysia an attractive destination and may have a long-term positive impact on real estate,” said Tong.
As the blueprint would attract more healthcare travellers, demand for short-term stays could increase. Accommodation is not only for the healthcare travellers alone but also for their families and friends who have come to provide emotional and physical support.
“More investors and property owners would be looking for properties to meet the increased demand by the healthcare travellers, especially those that are near the hospital or medical centre,” said Global Link Properties managing director Vincent Tan.
“Convenient medical facilities will add more value to the property compared to pure residential areas, and will make the entire development more holistic, instead of haphazard additions of amenities,” said Foreward Realty group chief executive officer Tee Soon Joo.
There is a trend of developers integrating healthcare into their master plan. Not only these properties are catered for healthcare tourism but also to the elderly Malaysian demographic.
“In the next few years, these properties will be well received as more people are entering retirement age and more significance is placed on wellness since the pandemic,” said Faizul.
“Many working individuals have elderly parents staying with them and more buyers will be looking for developments with healthcare amenities for peace of mind, and easier access,” said Tee.
A vibrant healthcare travel industry can also bring many opportunities for the Malaysian property industry. More visitors would increase tourism and interest to invest in Malaysia.
“Typically, those travelling into Malaysia for healthcare services may stay for longer periods, and in doing so, discover the attraction of Malaysia as a place to live and invest,” said Tong.
“Besides getting healthcare, they would want to visit Malaysia. Property developers can have tourism-focused packages, and maybe work with wellness centres for the healthcare travellers that come in,” said Tee.
In addition to tourism, developers can also tap into the technology industry through smart homes, as more people are going online for everyday necessities. A smart home that allows residents to remotely control their home, would be an attraction to buyers. Tan anticipates more demand for smart homes going forward.
“Many smart homes have CCTV or security monitoring systems that can be controlled remotely via WIFI. This can be attractive for foreigners who only live periodically in their purchased homes in Malaysia. When they are back in their home country they can still monitor their units,” said Tee.
However, Tan thinks that rather than entering the healthcare industry directly, developers are more likely to indirectly contribute. They would continue developing housing projects that property owners would rent out as temporary accommodation for healthcare travellers.
“Developers still seem to be more inclined towards residential or commercial development projects, instead of entering into the healthcare industry. Mostly, it is because developers perceive lesser risk and these developments have a better chance of obtaining funding from banks,” said Tan.
Looking through the investors’ lens, both Faizul and Ahyat believed that investors would be interested in properties that have healthcare elements. The future is bright with the government propelling healthcare travel through the blueprint and the increasing trend in healthcare property.
“I think investors who are aware of the potential of medical tourism will be highly keen to look at products with such a niche,” said Faizul.
“If the developers show that they are active in the healthcare travel industry and present the industry’s potential through facts. I think investors will come in. Personally, I would consider investing as well,” said Ahyat.
However, for both investors, the oversupply of property is a concern, as there has been a considerable number of unsold properties. “Demand needs to be created for the property industry. The Malaysia Healthcare travel blueprint would create a specific demand, which a global population is willing to pay,” added Ahyat.