What’s a better tourist draw than plastic surgery procedures? According to IBTimes, this is Thailand’s plan for reinvigorating interest in its offerings after anti-government protests have prompted many to stay away. The country is trying to promote itself as a source of high-quality medical tourism at budget prices. The beginning of their marketing campaign involves flying in three contestants to compete on “Thailand Extreme Makeover.”
Though it might sound like a reality show parody, this is the real thing: the competition will consist of pitting surgeons against each other as they perform cosmetic procedures on the contestants. The benefit for the contestants, of course, is that the trip is paid for, and the treatments are free. The winner, which will be determined by a tally of online votes from watchers of the show, will receive a $5,000 cash prize in addition to “luxurious tours” of Thailand.
“The Thailand Extreme Makeover campaign is a reality competition that will not only create awareness about Thailand as a destination for medical tourism… but also promote the kingdom as a travel destination with something for everyone,” said Thawatchai Arunyik, head tourism authority.
Bangkok is already one of the most popular destinations in the world for medical tourism; IBTimes estimates that about one million people seek medical care there every year, and medical tourism now makes up almost .5% of the country’s entire GDP. Some surgeons and industry professionals outside of the country, though, have expressed concern over this current trend.
“Thailand’s new reality show “Extreme Makeover’ is geared towards non-Thai women,” explains Melanie Fulton-Ruiz, RN at La Vraie Beauté Aesthetic And Plastic Surgery Consultants. “The show could be a good thing for their country regarding the need to boost back their international medical tourism. Although good for Thailand, I would be most concerned if the situation is good for the patient. As it is, surgery alone poses risk, and traveling abroad increases the risk involved.”
Overseas cosmetic surgery is not always as regulated as it is in the U.S., and a lack of long-term consultation regarding treatments can up the risk factor. And risk is always present when it comes to even minor cosmetic procedures — with every cut and injection comes the chance of a medical complication that can range from unwanted scarring to an unexpected reaction that lands you in the hospital. Will overseas patients be more eager to visit Thailand after watching “Thailand Extreme Makeover”? Whether the show will be a hit in the way the tourism board intended remains to be seen.