Professor Dr Montri Chulavatnatol, an advisor for the Ministry of Science and Technology, said that the central government is willing to support the Andaman region in the manufacture of Thai-made products in the medical and health sector, and also to help forge public-private-partnerships (PPP). He said the first step was research.
“We know that research and development is not easy to be achieved and costs money, but we should still invest in it to create a competitive advantage for Phuket, the Andaman and Thailand.”
A large part of the day was given over to brainstorming and group work sessions that looked at how to build support, create investment and decide what exactly to research.
Dr Ganjana Panurach, director for the Thailand Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences (TCELS) as well as policy and budgeting director for the Ministry of Public Health, who led most of the group work sessions, said that the Ministry of Public Health would soon allocate a budget for this project and that all relevant departments should think about how best to spend that money.
She added that the funds given were to be spent on research and not on training, “We want to see high quality products, made in Thailand, which represent the Andaman.”
Dr Ganjana referenced that the majority of spa treatment products used locally are actually made outside of the country. “Thailand should make these products itself. If local Andaman companies and organisations do not have enough knowledge then we can get people from Bangkok to help.”
She also suggested that the Andaman Medicopolis should be marketed to three different categories of visitor: ‘Platinum’, providing medical services for the elderly and retirement homes and communities; ‘Superstar’, which includes beauty and aesthetic treatment aimed at young adults; and ‘Wellness’, which would be aimed at those interested in healthy living, including spa treatments and health food.
However, Rangsiman Kingkaew, assistant managing director for Sukko Spa, fears that businesses that focus solely on high-end quality customers, as the Andaman Medicopolis will target, are risky and therefore may be easier said than done. It is for this reason that he believes research is paramount.
“It’s very difficult to run a business dependant on high-end customers without reliable research data, so creating the Andaman Medicopolis will be very challenging.
“We, as entrepreneurs, are curious about the number of visitors who visit Phuket for medical or health reasons and statistics of how much is spent per person.”
A representative from Krabi province, Somchai Harnpakdeepatima, chief of provincial development and strategy, suggested that improvements be first made in the Andaman provinces before focusing on any kind of joint venture that involved all of them.
“The existing transportation system [between the provinces] is no good. There are many obstacles to running a successful businesses in Krabi. Everything is still too expensive to invest in, except salt water hot springs, which are not marketed effectively enough.”
Mr Somchai said he also feared that the quality of staff in regional hospitals and in the tourism industry were not of a high enough standard.
Dr Prapornsri Narintaruksa, deputy director of the Phuket Public Health Office (PPHO), said it was a similar situation in Phuket, and posed the question of whether the central government even wanted Phuket to be a major tourist destination, “If so, why don’t they support Phuket more? We have a very limited budget to develop our staff and facilities.”
Coordination Manager for the Phuket Centre of the Ministry of Science, Nontiwat Jingjit, believes that even if Phuket and the other Andaman provinces could provide sufficient facilities and staff, issues with safety and ‘low quality’ tourists, will preclude the ‘right types’ of tourists from visiting.
“We need to have not only the best ‘Thai-made’ products, but also sustainable tourism as well. Tourists will not come or want to stay in Phuket if the quality of services are low and there are safety issues.
“Making a ‘good community’ will bring high quality people to Phuket and be good for businesses in the long term.”
There were, however, some representatives that were ready - Pareeya Jullaphong, general support manager for Bangkok Phuket Hospital (BPH), said that despite BPH already being a medical hub, it was ready for the Andaman Medicopolis and was willing to collaborate with other organisations to make it happen.
“The only thing we need is more licensed and registered nurses and better public transportation system for our clients.”
Another meeting to discuss how best to proceed with the Andaman Medicopolis project will be held within ‘a month or two.’