Beauty and healthcare industry in the Philippines thrives

The beauty and healthcare industry in the Philippines bucks the global economic downturn and thrives on the back of increased foreign visitor arrivals and expanding middle class spawned by the growing business process outsourcing industry.

"Contrary to expectations, three things thrive during crisis, namely: food, alcohol, and aesthetics," said Dr. Dr. Yanee V. Santos, founder of Aesthetic Science Clinic, a specialized clinic in the field of cosmetic dermatology and plastic surgery located in Alabang, Muntinlupa.

Dr. Santos, who used to work for the Belo Medical Group, said there is a rising demand for body and skin treatment in the country, particularly among office workers and call center agents. To serve its growing clientele base, Aesthetic Science, which adopts the medical spa concept, opened another clinic at the Ground Floor of Jupiter Place along Jupiter St. in Bel-air, Makati City, quickly drawing following among executives and employees at the commercial business district.

Santos said the two clinics get an average of 40 to 50 client visits a day, with each client spending P3,000 for such services as facial treatment, facial cleaning, or body scrub.

Clients include office workers in Makati, residents of Bel-air and San Lorenzo villages as well as foreigners. Santos said foreign patients represent just 10 percent of their total clients.

Aside from special medical clinics, dental clinics specializing on dental surgery are thriving this year, thanks to their websites that lure foreign patients from the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe.

One dental clinic in Makati City is doing advanced procedures such as dental implant or bridge among foreign patients almost on a weekly basis. Average spending for these procedures top P100,000 per implant, although this cost is just half the price of the same procedures abroad.

The Department of Tourism or DOT reported that 1,071 foreign patients sought medical services in the Philippines in 2008, although the actual number could be much higher, because many of the dental clinics offering services to foreigners were not accredited by the department.

Even smaller dental clinics in Cebu and Davao City offers services to foreign patients.

It was estimated that the medical tourism facilities accredited by the Tourism Department earned P108.8 million in revenues from those visits, with the average gross receipt per patient at P101,582.

Santos, however, said most visits to the Aesthetic Science Clinic were made by Filipino patients who are now ready to spend for cosmetic surgery.

Even the Tourism Department confirmed that locals were the ones behind the growth of the recreational sector. Data shows that while visits by foreign tourists in the top 15 provincial destinations outside Metro Manila grew 4 percent in the first quarter, domestic arrivals rose 12.9 percent.

Together, foreign and domestic arrivals grew 10.3 percent to 1.31 million in the January-March period from 1.19 million a year earlier.

Dr. Santos said that in order to sustain the interest of its guests, Aesthetic Science Clinic administers professional medical treatment in an spa-ambience setting.

Services in the clinic range from facial cleaning, deep skin peeling procedures, body scrub with bleach and massage, to non-surgical rejuvenation treatments such as botox, injectable glutathione, and Spanish peel, to cosmetic surgery, laser treatment for acne and hair removal, and radio frequency treatment for skin tightening and body contouring; and intense pulse light treatment for skin rejuvenation.

Dr. Santos said both Filipino men and women are now more acceptable to procedures such as wrinkle reduction and skin tightening, skin rejuvenation, ultra-fast hair removal, and treatment of leg veins.

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