PAL eyes expanding medical tourism to Saipan

The Philippine flag carrier, Philippine Airlines, is looking at expanding medical tourism between Saipan and the Philippines as a means to boost its passenger traffic.

The Philippines is home to prestigious medical facilities and offers American-trained medical expert but, unfortunately for Saipan residents, it takes a couple of expensive plane rides to get there.

Philippine Airlines is now looking at possibly getting more people from the CNMI to the Philippines to avail of the country’s medical services. That would entail raising people’s awareness of the available expertise and facilities of the country.

Most medical referrals from the CNMI go to Guam, Hawaii, or the U.S. mainland.

According to a statement from Philippine Airlines assistant vice president Bryan Ang, one of the challenges of expanding medical tourism in the CNMI is numbers.

“The number from Saipan unfortunately remains small; however, given some similarities in the medical industry of Saipan and Guam and its close proximity to the Philippines, we expect that Saipan can give us better numbers once the islands’ awareness of what the Philippines can offer is improved,” he said.

Ang said that PAL is determined to push forward with the medical tourism expansion because PAL sees a potential for growth in the CNMI, “which we believe has a big opportunity for growth… Meanwhile, we continue to serve our Saipan market by offering attractive fares through United Airlines from Saipan to Guam and on Philippine Airlines from Guam to Manila, or to any Philippine domestic and/or international destinations,” he said.

The idea is for CNMI residents to jump from Saipan to Guam via United Airlines, and then from Guam to Manila aboard PAL.

Medical tourism does not only cater to patients in urgent need of medical evacuation, but also caters to travelers who seek health and wellness in order to maintain and monitor their health.

Philippine Airlines indefinitely suspended regular Saipan flights back in August of 2017 due to a decrease in the number of passengers. Fortunately, after more than a year of seasonal operations, PAL remains hopeful that they can operate the route again in the near future.

PAL is also monitoring the U.S. government’s decision on the CNMI-Only Transitional Workers visa, which will help put more passengers on PAL flights.

Back in March, PAL partnered with Resorts World Manila to bring visitors from Saipan, Guam, and Hawaii to Manila to participate in RWM’s 2018 familiarization tour.

The PAL flight from Guam to the Philippines lasts about three hours.

Kimberly Bautista Bautista
Kimberly Bautista is the youngest in the stable of Saipan Tribune reporters. She has covered a wide range of beats, including the community, housing, crime, and education, for the Saipan Tribune.

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