The Star received top honour at the country’s inaugural Medical Travel Media Awards 2019, which took place in Petaling Jaya, Selangor recently.

The award was for Best Online Report for an article by Chester Chin, published last year, titled Getting hotels to cater to healthcare travellers in Malaysia. The award is the first of its kind in the world.

“This is an inaugural award not just in Malaysia, but throughout the world too. No other country in the world has ever held such an award.

“The media has played an important role in helping to promote Malaysian healthcare tourism and we thought it was time we thanked everyone for their efforts,” said Sherene Azli, CEO of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, am agency under the Ministry of Finance. MHTC is the organiser of the awards.

According to Sherene, Malaysia is ranked #1 in the “Best Healthcare in the World” category of the International Living Annual Global Retirement Index. “We have one of the best healthcare systems and have been ranked #1 since 2015,” she added.

Over the years, awareness on Malaysia’s healthcare travel industry, dubbed Malaysia Healthcare, has been built through local and international media.

“The media have helped in transforming Malaysia from a former hidden jewel to one of the leading destinations for healthcare travel in the world. They have created awareness to make a difference not just in the industry but in people’s lives too,” said Sherene.

The awards is a prelude to the upcoming international healthcare travel campaign, Malaysia Year of Healthcare Travel 2020. This campaign will run alongside Visit Malaysia 2020.

The other categories in the awards include Best Online Feature (international media), Best Print Report, Best Broadcast Feature, Medical Travel Editorial Team of the Year and Medical Travel Journalist of the Year. The winners won cash prizes of between RM8,000 and RM10,000.

More than 250 entries from media agencies and journalists from over 10 countries including Brunei, Croatia and South Africa were received.

Submissions were vetted by a panel of judges comprising industry professionals and experts. They are: Suhaimi Sulaiman, former CEO and group chief editor for Astro Awani; Marc Lourdes, vice president of digital content, Astro; Hanizah Hamzah, programme manager, Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union; Syed Mohamed Idid, head of corporate communications, community relations and public engagement, PLUS Malaysia; and Shannon Teoh, Malaysia bureau chief, Singapore Straits Times.

Officiating the event was Deputy Minister of Finance Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah.

“The media has been a catalyst to spur discussions of how healthcare travel trends have shifted. The media has brought a balance in the way we perceive the strength of Asian healthcare systems, especially for South-East Asia, who are emerging leaders within the global landscape, which was once strongly dominated by the West,” he said in his speech.