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Thailand’s medical tourism is on the rise!?

Thailand is in general a well known and popular tourist destination, where people like to visit for the purpose of exploring the Thai culture, tasting the local cuisine, playing golf and relaxing on the beautiful white sandy beaches, however many people also visit Thailand for other purposes, such as healthcare. You’re probably asking yourself: why would anyone travel to another country for treatment? Isn’t it too expensive?

Well, if you have been following the healthcare trends over the past years, you have probably heard of the impact Thailand had on the medical tourism sector. Each year, there are more tourists visiting and temporary relocating to Thailand, solely for the purpose of healthcare services, and you are probably wondering, why?

The answer is quite simple; affordability. Thailand’s healthcare systems and well trained personnel provide a high quality care for a fraction of the price the medical tourists would normally pay in their home countries. This is especially true for the private healthcare systems

Additionally, the public healthcare systems are generally affordable and sometimes free, but on the other hand, they do normally have long waiting lists. Sometimes people do not wish to wait long time for their procedure and simply can’t afford the private treatment, which forces them to turn to another country’s healthcare system in order to get a quick, quality treatment at a reasonable price. This is where Thailand gets the opportunity to shine, as the country’s doctors are well trained in the latest medical procedures and equipped with the modern technological devices. The language barrier is also not an issue anymore, since the medical personnel have good understanding of English language.

Moreover, Thailand is also on the verge of becoming the first country in Asia, to legalize the medical cannabis. The Government Pharmaceutical Organization, which is a branch of Ministry of Public Health, is hoping for approval from the military government to study cannabis further for medical purposes and considers its medicinal value.

In the 1980s, Thailand was among world’s top exporters of cannabis and the herb was traditionally used to treat distress, nausea and pain, while farmers grew it to relax. Furthermore, Thailand has already conducted its own studies and confirmed that cannabis has medicinal values beneficial for the treatment of nausea and loss of appetite for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, epilepsy in children and multiple sclerosis, according to the local media Khaosod. At this point in time, cannabis is still highly illegal for both medicinal and recreational purposes, and anyone caught in possession could face high fines and jail time for up to 15 years.

On the positive note, the cabinet of minister under the military government approved the proposal to change the laws, so the cannabis could be tested on human subjects to further asses its use for medicinal purposes. According to the latest news, Thailand could see the legalization of cannabis by the end of 2018, and beginning of 2019. Once the law has fully passed, Thailand will be the first Asian country to join the 12.9 Billion dollar market, currently led by U.S and Canada. Thailand has the huge advantage due to its tropical climate suitable for growing cannabis, which lowers the need for using artificial lights and temperature control devices. In order words, it will be more cost effective to grow the higher quality cannabis, giving Thailand the opportunity to become the industry leader. According to Dr. Nopporn Cheanklin, executive managing director of the GPO:

“The best strains of cannabis in the world 20 years ago were from Thailand, and now Canada has developed this strain until up to this day, we can’t claim that ours is the best in the world anymore.

“That’s why we must develop our strain to be able to compete with theirs.”

What could this change mean for Thailand? Legalizing medical cannabis would allow Thai population to use cannabis for treatment, but it could also attract a high number of foreigners suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis and other chronic illnesses, that would be in favor of using cannabis, but are not allowed to do so in their home country due to the illegal status cannabis has. Therefore, the medical tourism could see an exponential growth and higher demand for accommodation and other tourism related services, which could also create more employment and business opportunities.

Investing in the Hua Hin Property market – Opportunity is Knocking!

With Hua Hin tourism gaining traction with recognition as a prime holiday destination, the Hua Hin real estate market is now providing a great investment option; opportunity is knocking.

Thailand’s real estate market is one of Asia’s most popular among foreign investments. With a population of almost 70 million people, a strong service sector and an economy that has been growing steadily for the past 30 years, this is one of Asia’s most dynamic countries for investment!

Bangkok may still offer property investment possibilities, but that market is not really for those who are also looking for lifestyle and retirement options. Bangkok is a huge city sprawling over 5,986 square kilometers. That is 800 square kilometers larger than New York City’s five boroughs. With a population of around 10 million, a Bangkok property investment is not for the faint hearted.

Many potential property investors begin their investment quest after travelling to many tourism destinations and deciding to make a long term commitment to the Thai lifestyle by purchasing property. That’s means a mix of a financial investment but also a relaxed and comfortable future. The link between real estate and tourism is well known.

If the mega-city that is Bangkok is not for you and with the options of many cities, towns and attractive resort destinations in Thailand, why choose Hua Hin? Three very clear reasons are about lifestyle, accessibility and location. “Location, Location, Location’ has long been the mantra of most successful property investors!

Being as close as possible to the ocean is one such location preferences. Another is to be within easy reach of Bangkok as a transport hub. Pattaya as an ocean-side option with a similar distance from Bangkok comes into the picture. There’s even a regular cross gulf ferry between Pattaya and Hua Hin to enable an easy commute between the two locations.

Big changes in rail, air and road transport infrastructure is making both of these locations more accessible to travelers. Hua Hin may have previously suffered in this regard however that’s all changing. High speed rail between Bangkok and Hua Hin will soon be a reality to give Hua Hin a slight advantage in reach. The extension of further international flights to Hua Hin airport will extend that advantage.

Phuket is also famed for its beaches and spectacular islands. However, apart from the distance from Bangkok (over 800 kilometers) the ‘bird may have flown’ for affordable property investment opportunities. Land for real estate projects on the island is very limited. This is an issue that Hua Hin is unlikely to face for many years to come with an extensive coastline stretching from central Hua Hin both north and south along Thailand’s ‘Royal Coast’.

Chiang Mai may also come under consideration, but not if being on the coast is preferred. One of the coastal advantages is about ocean breezes and clean air. Air quality issues in Chiang Mai and other northern Thai provinces continue to be an issue for many. Apart from clean air, Hua Hin boasts climatic conditions devoid of extremes in weather conditions. With the lowest rainfall in Thailand, the monsoon season hardly changes aspects of the lifestyle and enjoying the scenic surrounds.

Tourists, residents and therefore property investors also consider the lifestyle available at a location before making long term decisions. Hua Hin offers a lifestyle initially created by Thai royalty around 100 years ago. That legacy remains with royal palaces and other cultural legacies giving the city a respectful, safe and family friendly ambiance very different in character to Pattaya.

Because Hua Hin is a preferred holiday destination for Thai people, especially as a weekender from Bangkok, the investment potential is less dependent on the vagaries of international traveler numbers. Quite simply, if the Chinese and Russians stopped vacationing in Pattaya or Phuket their property market would die. Hua Hin boasts a sustainability and growth that is the envy of other investment areas in Thailand. Apart from foreign investors, the Hua Hin property market is fed by the preferences of Thai people as wealthy Thai people love having weekend homes in Hua Hin.

The days of Hua Hin being known for a limited infrastructure are long gone. Modern shopping malls, water parks, amusement parks and sporting facilities have all appeared in recent years. An extensive range of high end resorts, restaurants and hotels await visitors as well as multiple highly awarded golf courses. The region is the current Asian golf destination of the year!

Property prices in Hua Hin remain relatively reasonable with some great value on offer and bargains for high-end real estate if you look closely. The twin disadvantages that have held Hua Hin back in the past have been about access and a limited infrastructure. As the property market reacts to recent dramatic improvements in these areas and those to follow over the next 5 – 10 years, the current opportunities for lucrative investments are likely to diminish.

Property investment in Hua Hin is an investment in the vibrant future of Thailand’s primary ocean-side location and opportunity is knocking!

Entering the Hua Hin Property Debate: To Rent or Buy?

After many enjoyable holidays in Thailand and exploring the countryside, many foreigners come to the conclusion that they want to establish a new ‘home base’ abroad at their favorite location. That location in Thailand is Hua Hin for many of them!

A suitable home is not hard to find. After all Hua Hin offers so many choices from high rise condos to luxurious pool villas to more modest townhouses or perhaps a rural location with a house and land. There are also ‘gated’ communities, village settings or golf course apartments. The choices are almost unlimited. But perhaps the most important first step in finding your new ‘home away from home’ is to answer a fundamental question; are you going to rent or buy? That decision has both financial and lifestyle implications. For some the financial or investment factors are primary, others are guided more by emotional choices.

The internet provides many lengthy debates on the pros and cons of renting V purchasing. However the advice offered varies as different countries have different property markets, financial rules and regulations as well as different safeguards for both purchasers and tenants. Home ownership rates vary country by country based on social, economic, political and historical circumstance. It may come as a surprise that Romania is rated as the country with the highest percentage of home ownership (around 96%) as people consider renting to be a short-term solution and the rental housing market is not well developed or regulated. Countries such as South Korea (56%), Austria (48%), Germany (49%) and Hong Kong (50%) have relatively low rates. Switzerland, with an ownership rate of 37%, is among the lowest and Thailand is somewhere in between at 80%. (Ref: snbchf.com – 2017)

The point is that it may be hard to leave behind well entrenched expectations and experiences from your country of origin when considering the choices that Thailand offers. Of course it’s not just a black and white decision. Variations include renting or leasing with a purchasing option, purchasing the property but not the land or lifetime leasing options. These are just some of the topics that a reputable and experienced property agent must be able to explain to your satisfaction.

Looking at a typical Thailand home maker who is likely to be retired and may not be here for the full year; here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of renting Vs. buying a property in Thailand:

Pros of Renting

More flexibility: When renting a home you can more easily pack up and move when you’re faced with sudden changes; including health issues.

Live in a better area: When renting you may be able to afford to live in a better area or housing complex than you would if you were purchasing a home.

Lower monthly payments: The payments you make towards your rent are likely to be lower than paying off a home loan, leaving you more spending money each month.

Maintenance: The only insurance required by a tenant will be to cover the contents of the home, while all maintenance work on the property is at the owner’s expense, as is the building insurance.

Cons of Renting

You cannot make many changes: The changes you can make to a rental property in Thailand tend to more than in many other countries but depend on the whims of the owner. Don’t expect any reimbursement for improvements made.

No return on investment!

If there is a change in ownership or the owners simply decides they don’t want to give you the option to renew your lease, you’re left looking for a new place to live.

When renting a property, you have no control over rental fluctuations.

There is no guarantee that a lease will be renewed when it expires.

Pros of Buying

Value appreciation: Over time the value of your home should increase, depending on the wisdom of your investment. When you finally decide to sell your home you expect a growth in personal wealth.

Control over the property: Whatever you want to do with your home (legally), you can do it without asking for permission! Change the decor the way you’d like it, purchase the appliances you prefer, make changes in garden etc.

It’s yours: No one can take your home away from you.

Holiday home: You could choose to use your home as a holiday home and rent it out when you are not there. In this way you can have the best of both worlds – somewhere beautiful to vacate to and your investment paying for itself.

Home ownership brings intangible benefits such as a sense of stability, belonging to a community and pride of ownership.

Cons of Buying

A significant financial investment: Even though the cost of purchasing in Thailand is far lower than many other countries, it is still an investment that you must be confident about.

Risk of earning no return: Although the property market in Thailand is prospering, if you’re planning to purchase a property in hope of appreciation, there is always a risk that won’t happen.

Less flexibility: If you purchase a home you can’t just move whenever you please, you must first go through the process of selling your home. If you prefer the stability of owning your home, this could be a pro!

There are additional costs to home ownership. These usually include rates, taxes, insurance, and maintenance for which the owner is responsible.

Legal issues are not uncommon in Thailand when unscrupulous developers or agents misrepresent title ownership or financial arrangements. A definite case of ‘let the buyer beware’!

Which option is best for you isn’t just about your money. Ultimately, the decision to rent or to own is also emotional and about confidence in your vision for the future. Ignore people who tell you that one is always better than the other. Housing markets and life circumstances are much too varied and complex to make blanket statements like that. 

Finally a quote to contemplate: “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore” – Mark Twain