Bali is already a world-renowned tourist destination, known as a tropical paradise thriving with its mixture of history, culture, natural beauty, lifestyle offerings and, in recent years, wellness opportunities. However, recent buzz suggests that the Balinese government are interested in exploring Bali’s potential as a medical tourism destination that can rival that of its neighbouring countries.

Medical Tourism in Bali - Doctor Consultation
People photo created by jcomp – www.freepik.com

When you think of Bali, or Indonesia in general, a great healthcare system and top medical achievements aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind. Ironically, many Indonesian themselves (those who can afford it, at least) would prefer to cross over to neighbouring countries with excellent healthcare and medical services, such as Singapore or Japan.

Bali is already well-regarded as a top global destination for leisure, culture and wellness, but could it add medical tourism to that list as well? It is certainly clear that the island must add to and diversify its current industries, reducing its dependency on regular tourism, but does Bali have what it takes to become a renowned medical destination? If so, what needs to be done to achieve this and offer a service equal to (or better than) its neighbours?

Bali Government considers its potential…

Medical Tourism in Bali - Vice Governor of-Bali Cok Ace
Vice Governor of Bali – Cok Ace (Source: baliprov.id)

Recent news has revealed that the Balinese government are interested in exploring the possibility of developing Bali into a health and medical tourism destination as part of the efforts to support the economic recovery of Bali.

This was conveyed by Putu Deddy Suhartawan, General Manager of the Indonesian Medical Tourism Board (IMTB), during an audience with the Vice Governor of Bali, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati (Cok Ace) on Friday, 20 November 2020. During the meeting, Deddy said that he believes Bali has a great potential to be developed as a medical tourism destination because it is supported by qualified resources.

He stated that a total of 280 hospitals in Bali have been fully accredited, while 30 hospitals have been internationally accredited. According to Deddy, ever since the Bali Bombings and up until before the Covid-19 pandemic, Bali has been continually improving its health services. Thus, more foreigners are more open to trying medical services while vacationing in Bali.

There are a few medical fields that are currently being accessed by visitors, mainly cosmetic services available in Bali from plastic surgery, face implants, facelifts, liposuction to non-invasive treatments. The numbers can reach up to 60 patients per month, with revenues reaching up to IDR 1,2 billion. This is what gives Deddy the confidence to develop medical tourism in Bali.

The Vice Governor, Cok Ace, reacted positively to the idea and agrees that Bali does have great potential for medical tourism, as developing this field will also bolster support to other tourist-based revenue. The island’s reputation as a world-famous wellness destination proves that developing new areas of tourism is possible: Bali has over 3,200 wellness centres, from traditional holistic medical centres to spa centres, however, only a handful of them have met the standards of health facilities, which is an important factor if Bali sees potential in becoming a medical destination.

“One thing that must be focused on is to further highlight the actual potential that we have that other countries don’t so that we don’t have to compete with other countries,” said the Vice Governor.

History in wellness

Medical Tourism in Bali - Wellness Yoga

With a history in healing, spirituality and more, Bali has built an outstanding reputation as a world-renowned wellness destination. Its reputation as one of Asia’s most exciting wellness markets stems from a combination of affordability, diversity, and innovation.

In Bali, you’ll find that the variety of wellness offerings are limitless. From wellness retreats to rejuvenating spa treatments, there’s something for everybody. The spa industry in Bali thrives as one of the most notable wellness factions on the island, supported by its highly trained local therapists, rich local ingredients for spa products and the stunning natural landscape — one of the main selling points for spa centres with unique settings and views. Most (if not all) of the prominent hotels in Bali are equipped with cutting-edge spa facilities. However, spa therapies are not limited to the high-end market as there are countless local spa and massage parlours throughout the island with affordable rates.

Bali’s big profitability in wellness tourism has long attracted many big international hospitality brands to take root on the island, including luxury brands such as Como Shambhala Estate and Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, which present wellness seekers with yoga and detox-driven experiences; as well as boutique retreats such as Fivelements Bali, which offers wellness retreats with curated plant-based meals and a variety of healing activities, and the fairly new Nusa Dua wellness retreat, REVĪVŌ Wellness Resort – Nusa Dua, Bali.

Additionally, Bali is known for its yoga centres and retreats, especially in the Ubud area which is regarded as the yoga epicentre of Bali. One of the most well-known and largest yoga centres is The Yoga Barn in Ubud, every avid yogi must have heard of this place. The Yoga Barn offers many workshops, training, and daily classes.

BaliSpirit Festival, the annual yoga festival in Ubud has been around for the past 13 years and is one of the biggest yoga festivals in the world. A haven for avid yoga practitioners, the festival has attracted thousands of attendees from all around the world who come to learn and experience not only yoga but the other activities offered including dance, meditation, music and breathwork.

Then there is the fitness scene. Bali has many fitness centres, ranging from your usual gyms to Bootcamp workouts that are very much in trend today. Popular today are fitness venues like CrossFit Wanderlust who offer a Bootcamp style workout, or F45 Training Seminyak who provide the ultimate gym experience by combining cutting-edge techniques with high-grade equipment.

Finally, Bali has welcomed centres and destinations that present the latest in wellness offerings, from floatation tanks and ice baths to cryotherapy. Some examples include Terapung Float Club, The Istana in Uluwatu and Body Factory Bali in Canggu.

Bali’s aesthetic clinic industry

Medical Tourism in Bali - Aesthetic Beauty Clinic

On top of health and wellness, the aesthetic treatment and services offered on the island have developed quickly over the last few years as well. These clinics offer a variety of services ranging from simple procedures such a botox and fillers to anti-ageing treatments and medical treatments.

Several of these clinics include long-standing and very established aesthetic clinics in Bali, ARC, which has been around since 2002; Cocoon Medical Spa, an award-winning aesthetic clinic with establishments in Kuta and Ubud; Rejuvie Clinic in Kuta, offering a dozen anti-ageing and laser rejuvenation techniques; and the Jakarta brand Ultimo, which offers cutting edge treatments and medical services, just to name a few.

Apart from the growing number of aesthetic and beauty clinics, Bali is also home to several excellent dental clinics that offer a variety of services from regular check-ups and root canals to cosmetic dentistry treatments. Dental treatments in Indonesia in general is far more affordable than the prices of dental services in other countries such as the United States. So, in addition to vacationing in this tropical paradise, many foreign visitors can also take advantage of the affordable prices of dental services in Bali.

Bali is lucky to have some of the best and most professional dentists in the country that are even advanced in the cosmetic dentistry from teeth whitening to veneers in addition to the regular dental services. Some of the best dental clinics in Bali include Rejuvie Dental Clinic in Kuta, ARC Dental Clinic in Kuta, SG Dental Solution in Seminyak, and BIA (Bali Implant Aesthetic) Dental Center in Kuta, among others.

Potential for full-on medical treatment destination

Health-related industries on the island have clearly already developed a strong reputation and the interest continues to grow. So, adding a medical tourism facet is in fact a plausible development for Bali’s future. This is further supported by several factors:

Firstly, the cost of medical services around the world is getting more expensive. This is because medical treatment is a service business where the value of services in developed countries is relatively more expensive than that of developing countries, where ‘service’ remains affordable.

According to Marie Stephano, CEO of Global Healthcare Resources and Medical Tourism Association, 10 health tourism destinations in the world provide high-quality health services at low prices. These countries are India, Brazil, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, Mexico, Costa Rica, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore. There are six Asian countries included in that list, Indonesia however, is not one of them — at least not yet.

Secondly, there is an increasing trend of special interest tourism. This special interest tourism includes health tourism, culinary tourism, sports tourism, cultural tourism, environmental sustainability tourism, and more. With the number of doctors and hospitals of international standards, Bali has the potential to become a medical tourism destination for the Asia Pacific market.

Thirdly, there has been a shift in tourists’ trends and interests. The current tourist trend is ‘active tourism’, which means that while tourists are on vacation, they’ll remain active with a variety of activities including fitness, yoga, cycling, horse riding, cycling, mountain climbing and many more. This is evident in Bali because with visitors (both international and domestic) seek fitness or yoga experiences that are elevated by the island’s stunning landscapes as well as surrounding lifestyle.

What does Bali need for this to be realised?

Medical Tourism in Bali - Airport Arrival

For these ideals to come into fruition, several things must be applied. Firstly, Bali must have affordable and high-quality medical services and facilities. If a vacation in Bali is affordable, then the cost of medical treatments in Bali should also be affordable. In countries such as Malaysia, the state regulates the standard of health services, provides subsidies for public hospitals, and sets limits on the medical costs of private hospitals. This is an example that could be applied here in Bali as well.

Additionally, Bali would need to develop the building of a single facility reputation, which builds and highlights Bali’s reputation as a medical tourism destination. For example, the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore is an esteemed and highly-regarded hospital in the country, which has an impeccable reputation as ‘the’ hospital to go to in Singapore. Therefore, Bali needs to have its own “hero” hospital/clinic like what the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore is in order to build its destination reputation because, without it, the idea of developing Bali into a medical tourism destination will falter.

Then, there should be integrated airport-hospital services and facilities that are provided, such as pick-up services, airport services, transportation from and to the airport to check-in at the hospital. It would be ideal for the hospital to provide a special lounge at the airport for international patients so that they can already experience the hospital services from the moment they arrive in Bali.

There also needs to be hotel services provided at the hospital. Considering that the purpose of visiting tourists is for medical treatment, the advantage of seeking treatments in Bali is that they can enjoy treatment whilst enjoying the beautiful atmosphere of Bali.

Finally, a strong campaign to promote Bali as a medical tourism destination must be carried out. Awareness must be created; this can be done with the help of the minister of health and tourism working together to promote the hospitals in Bali throughout the world.

The facilities provided can start from consulting prospect patients before coming to Bali, including providing possible itineraries. Hospitals can take advantage of digital services by disclosing information and registrations in various languages.

Developing Bali into a medical tourism destination will not be an easy task nor will it be quick. It will take years to develop because you must first build trust and reputation as an established and well-known medical tourism destination. If done correctly and efficiently, there’s no doubt that Bali could become a leading medical tourism destination known around the world.