Medical Tourism Helps Drive Singapore’s Retail Growth

The long-awaited return of medical tourists provides another source of external demand, along with leisure and business travellers, fueling the recovery of Singapore’s retail market.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 500,000 foreign patients visited Singapore annually for medical treatment, according to Singapore’s Yusof Ishak Institute. They largely stopped entering Singapore when the borders were closed to short-term visitors from March 23, 2020 due to the pandemic.

With the reopening of many international borders, medical tourists are again seeking treatment abroad due to disparity in quality of health care or limited health care capacity in their home countries, where health care resources may have been limited. prioritized to contain the pandemic over treating other health conditions.

Singapore’s retail market is set to benefit from renewed medical tourism, considering foreign patients are often accompanied by family members and their pent-up demand for travel and spending.

The high purchasing power of premium regional medical tourists

Singapore is well known in Asia for its comprehensive, high-quality, and premium health care services, ranging from health screenings to surgeries, with well-trained medical specialists and state-of-the-art facilities. The Medical Tourism Association ranked Singapore second overall in the 2020-2021 Medical Tourism Index and first for the quality of healthcare facilities and services.

Singapore attracts premium regional medical tourists who prioritize high-quality healthcare treatment services over cost. Furthermore, the high disposable income and purchasing power of these visitors bodes well for the recovery of Singapore’s high-end retail market.

Travel-friendly protocols and security perceptions make Singapore an easy choice

The introduction of quarantine-free and test-free entry to Singapore for all fully vaccinated travelers and the introduction of quarantine-free entry to Singapore for not fully vaccinated travelers reduce friction when traveling here for medical treatment.

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Singapore improved its global reputation by handling the pandemic especially well compared to most developed economies. Subsequently, Singapore’s pragmatic, cautious and effective approach to living with the pandemic offers patients the security of a low risk of infection and makes it an easy choice for travelers’ first post-pandemic overseas vacations.

In fact, healthcare providers are seeing more foreign patients (from Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, India, Vietnam, and Laos) coming to Singapore for treatment following the introduction of travel-friendly protocols on April 1, 2022.[1]. Suppressed demand from returning foreign patients already familiar with Singapore, accompanied by family members, will support retail sales growth.

New tourist offers to extend the stay and increase spending

The availability of premium shopping destinations along with new and revamped tourist attractions that offer unique experiences for patients and/or accompanying family members should extend the length of their stay and increase spending in Singapore. These offerings include fitness and wellness packages to promote holistic wellness in urban living, the upcoming indoor venue in Somerset featuring live performances in the Orchard Road shopping belt, and an action sports facility in Somerset (2023).

The return of medical tourists should support not only the recovery of the tourism and retail industries in Singapore, but also the recovery of the retail property market.

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