UTAR academics awarded best paper award in ICCB 2021

From left: Seow, Prof Choong, Dr Choong, Dr Lam, Dr Chang and Chin

The research titled “Determinants of Medical Tourist’s Destination Loyalty: Evidence from Malaysia” was recently awarded as one of “ICCB 2021 Best Papers” in the 4th International Conference on Communication and Business (ICCB) 2021, organised by LPSR Communication and Business Institute, Indonesia, from 9 to 10 March 2021, via ZOOM.

The research was written by main author Faculty of Business and Finance (FBF) academic Seow Ai Na, along with co-authors Vice President for Student Development and Alumni Relations Prof Dr Choong Chee Keong, FBF Deputy Dean for R&D and Postgraduate Programmes Dr Choong Yuen Onn, FBF academic Dr Lam Siew Yong, FBF academic Chin Lai Kwan, Faculty of Information and Communication Technology academic Dr Chang Jing Jing and Universiti Sains Malaysia academic Dr Ooi Say Keat.

“Our research areas are mainly focused on tourism studies, such as health tourism and medical tourism from international tourists' and medical tourists’ perspective. We started researching these areas in 2013 and have gained numerous acceptance by the publishers.  Due to the pandemic, we faced challenges in conducting the study. Therefore, this award comes as an honour for us and a recognition for all the hard work contributed by the team. As an academician, I am glad to be able to share the area of my PhD study and I am thankful for the encouragement given by my co-researchers,” enthused Seow.

She also believed one of the factors that contributed to the award was the paper demonstrated awareness of the latest research trend in a specific field, for instance, medical tourism. The paper also presented convincing critical arguments and findings that addressed the research objectives.

In the research, medical tourism is identified as one of the important elements in the national development blueprint for Malaysia, for its high contribution to national income. Thus, the research focused on understanding medical tourists’ loyalty formation through medical services quality, perceived value and satisfaction. Findings from the research indicated that medical service quality influences perceived value the most, followed by destination loyalty and satisfaction. Perceived value has a stronger effect on destination loyalty formation than satisfaction. Satisfaction has the strongest mediation effect on the relationship between medical service quality and destination loyalty. Several managerial implications to the medical tourism industry and its stakeholders together with a more holistic business strategy to stimulate higher loyalty are also proposed.

“Medical tourism provides a positive social impact by allowing medical tourists access to enhanced health services at affordable prices in Malaysia, thus, improving their quality of life. It also creates jobs, cultural enrichment and technological advances within the community. Thus, local communities are encouraged to show support in terms of empathy, kindness, host attitudes to medical tourists, and extend cooperation to all bodies,” explained Seow.

She added, “The study generates a great opportunity for the medical service providers and policymakers to understand the effects of medical service quality, perceived value, and satisfaction on destination loyalty. Besides, government agency such as Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) could use the findings to target the right customers for destination loyalty by seeking the same medical service providers in the long run. In summary, collaborative efforts from all interested parties (government and regulatory bodies, medical service providers, travel agencies and local communities) to provide concerted support to medical tourism programmes rolled out are essential. The Malaysian government and regulatory bodies are encouraged to offer higher incentives to medical service providers to allow them to continue to provide higher standards of services at the lowest costs. For instance, offering tax incentives or subsidies to healthcare centres that host medical tourism for any R&D developments or improvements carried out, upgrading and catering high-end IT infrastructures and facilities to facilitate the implementation of e-health technology and others. Travel agencies are also encouraged to come out with more holistic packages that may include retreats, relaxation, spa, nature visits and packages into their promotional materials and travel packages targeted to medical tourists.”

Seow also believed that the research will create an opportunity for all members to learn from each other, through their diverse experiences and skills. It is said that the research was inspired by the idea of helping international tourists around the world to seek quality medical services at affordable prices. The research is funded by Fundamental Research Grant Scheme project FRGS/1/2019/SS01/UTAR/02/2 provided by the Ministry of Higher Education of Malaysia.

Seow and her team had also received “Best Nominee Paper” award and "Most Downloaded Paper Award’ by Wiley IJTR that gained many citations.

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