Wanderlust | The rise of medical tourism

“MAAYO” is a Cebuano word that means “good” or “excellent.” It can also mean “heal” or “cure.” Last April 20, we had an experience of both meanings of the word during our short but fruitful visit to, where else, Maayo Hotel and Maayo Well, a wellness hotel complex located along Plaridel Street and UN Avenue in Mandaue City, just 15 minutes away from the Mactan Cebu International Airport.

A pioneering medical tourism facility in the Queen City of the South

A pioneering medical tourism facility in the Queen City of the South

“It was an eye opener for us when we visited one of the top hospitals in Bangkok and found out that the Thai owner graduated from a medical school here in Cebu. When he opened his hospital, he employed Cebuanos there. That got us thinking that we can do it here and have ‘brain gain’ instead of brain drain,” said Maayo Hotel president and Primary Group of Builders chief operating officer William Christopher U. Liu, Jr.

Liu have seen the country losing its workforce to other countries all the time. “We can keep them here and spend their money here instead,” he said.

Maayo Well CEO Dr. Teodoro Gonzales, Maayo SVP for HR Paulette Liu, Maayo president William Christopher U. Liu, Jr.

Maayo Well CEO Dr. Teodoro Gonzales, Maayo SVP for HR Paulette Liu, Maayo president William Christopher U. Liu, Jr.

That was how Maayo Hotel and Maayo Medical began.

The four-star wellness hotel is not only the first ever Depatment of Health-endorsed medical tourism facility in the Visayas but also the only Philippine Economic Zone Authority-approved medical tourism facility in Southern Philippines.

One of Maayo's 229 well-appointed rooms

One of Maayo’s 229 well-appointed rooms

“There are so many medical facilities in the country, and as player in that field, we wanted to be different and have our own unique selling proposition that can meet the needs of an emerging market,” Maayo Well chief operating officer Dr. Teodoro Gonzales.

Interestingly, the Cebuano doctor stayed in Davao City during his younger years (he is related to the Kintanars of Davao) and studied elementary at the Holy Cross of Davao.

“Everybody knows that Cebu is a major tourism destination, an important hub and entry point in the region. Now, the challenge is make people aware that we are also a medical destination. With Maayo, our goal is to serve the local community with international standards

By doing we so, we hope to become attractive to also the foreigners,” he added.

The wellness tourism complex is divided into two towers, the 299 room hotel and the wellness center that houses various departments such as Aces Eye Referral Clinics, Aesthetics Institute, Dental Services, Cardiovascular, Diabetes Care, ENT-HNS, Hemodialysis, Liver Wellness, Men’s Wellness, Nutrition Services, Physical Wellness and Rehabilitation, and Women’s Wellness.

“Unlike most hospitals where we are used to seeing doctors, patients and visitors liberally wandering around the premises, in Maayo, patients are requested to set appointments. We are trained and empowered to address immediately our patients’ needs. When they get here, we comfortably take them to the waiting area and communicate with them in a separated consultation room. We give our patient’s privacy utmost premium,” shared head nurse Allen Potot, who was also assigned as my “migo” (personal nurse) as we were given a sample to some of their wellness services.

In fact, Maayo Well doesn’t look like a hospital at all but more like a hotel well-appointed facilities. And unlike hospitals, you don’t have to be necessarily inflicted with diseases to check-in at Maayo.

For day or two, guests can enjoy Acro Yoga Water Flow, basic rehab treatment, compressible limb therapy system, continuous passive movement, cryotherapy, EMG-NVC, high intensity laser, land yoga, lap swimming, laser therapy, partner yoga, physiatrist consultation, PT evaluation, treatment planning and initial treatment, regular water treatment, shockwave therapy, targeted radio frequency therapy, traction, water fitness class, water yoga, hydrofacial, body contouring, restorative dentistry, oral prophylaxis, rejuvenating health drips and infusions, and gym and jogging trail use.

“It is more important to us that our guests come out as better, more health-conscious individuals after they undergo our holistic services,” she said.

A fine balance of wellness and hospitality, Maayo epitomizes wellness and recovery in one destination.

“Most hospitals, by definition, in order for them to function well, have to be built around emergency facilities. That’s one of the reasons why hospitals, no matter how pretty they try to make them, there’s a part about it that makes one completely think that it’s just a place where sick people go to get treatment. When that’s not there, you will see that it’s just a completely different type of atmosphere, just like Maayo,” said Brad Geiser, creative director and innovations head of GeiserMaclang Marketing Communications Inc.

With a world class wellness tourism facility accessibly located right at the heart of the country, there’s no more need for one to travel far to Singapore or Bangkok to get the same state-of-the-art treatments. They can spend their hard-earned money in the country and get even more with what they pay for.

“We work harder to strive for excellence in order to raise the bar especially that we are one of the pioneers in the wellness tourism industry in the Philippines,” quipped Liu.

According to Liu, after successfully opening in Mandaue City, they are planning to opening three more hotels outside of Cebu, and contemplating on opening similar facilties in other parts of Visayas, Palawan and Mindanao.

Aqua yoga, one of their pool fitness programs

Aqua yoga, one of their pool fitness programs


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