Philippines Eyes Bigger Slice From $2 Trillion Global Health and Wellness Pie

Medical tourism and Philippines health and wellness industry

The Philippines is in an excellent position to grab a bigger slice from practically all aspects of the rapidly growing global health and wellness industry that hit a record US$2 trillion last year.

This was the view presented by one of the pioneers of the wellness industry in the country to participants in a workshop on trade in services held at the Philippine Trade Training Center in Pasay City as part of the national celebration of the ExportersWeek.

Cathy Brillantes Turvill, president of the Philippine Wellness and Spa Association (PhilWell), said that as of last year, the global health and wellness industry still managed to grow by four percent despite the recession last year.

The biggest moneymaker was the beauty and anti-aging industry, hauling in $679 billion.

"That is why the likes of Vicky Belo (a cosmetic surgeon with her own line of beauty products) are very rich," Turvill, who also owns the world-class Nurture Spa in Tagaytay City, said.

In the local scene, the wellness industry had grown from scratch to earn $25.3 million last year, with foreigners contributing 62 percent of its revenues.

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The country has the educated pool of professionals, the natural wealth and a wide range of medicinal herbs and plants to play in the global stage.

Fueling the rapid growth of the global beauty and health industry are the baby boomer generation, those who were born after WWII and in the 1950s.

"On an average, 10,000 men and women reach the age of 50 every day. Our generation seems to refuse to get old, fueling the beauty care industry boom," she said.

She explained that health and wellness as an export industry could be divided into two general categories: medical tourism in which plastic surgery is a part, and the wellness industry.

Wellness she described as the opposite of illness and defined it as allowing the body to heal itself.

A spa, contrary to misconception, means healing by water or water treatment. The Philippines, she added, is rich in natural springs with healing properties.

"The Philippines has the potential to play a role in any aspect of the medical and wellness services exports, from heart and cosmetic surgery to "hilot"," she contended.

She informed her fellow services exporters that "hilot", a folk system of healing still practiced in rural Philippines but previously shunned as quackery, is now accepted by Japan as a branch of the wellness industry.

In fact, she added, Japan is now training its own therapists to adopt the "hilot" system of healing which PhilWell has managed to standardize.

She predicted that by the year 2022, tourism and alternative health care would emerge as the world's biggest industries. (PHILEXPORT/Abe P. Belena)

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