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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 00:21 GMT
Malaysia targets breast surgery tourists

Penang, off the west coast of Malaysia, has been a popular tourist spot for many years, but it is finding new ways of attracting visitors - by offering plastic surgery.


The main thing that attracted me to it is that you get a holiday out of it

Jennifer Frost
topless model
Penang is well known as the world's silicon island, where millions of computer chips are exported every year.

But now it is now hoping to make its name for silicone - the substance found in breast implants.

Specialist tour companies, like Beautiful Holidays, are offering holiday packages for tourists, who can enjoy some sunshine as well as having cosmetic surgery.

More than 70,000 such tourists have visited in the past year alone.

The state government's tourism minister, Datuk Kee Phaik Cheen, says medical tourism is a new niche well-suited to the skills and facilities available in Penang.

"When you're promoting an international tourism destination, we get a lot of competition from Phuket, Hong Kong and even Bali, they're our competitors," she says. "But when you go into niche marketing, like medical tourism, Penang has a competitive edge.

"We have very well trained medical personnel - the nursing care is just wonderful."

Happy customer

Marlose Giezenaar, the founder of Beautiful Holidays, says she chose Penang because the hospital has "a personal touch".

"I think it's important that when somebody wakes up after surgery that they've got somebody there who's friendly, who smiles at them, who speaks very good English," she says.

Getting customers to feel much better about themselves after such cosmetic surgery is crucial for tour companies like Beautiful Holidays. Ms Giezenaar says potential patients are screened beforehand by the hospital to gauge their suitability.


It's not generally a good idea to have a surgical operation and then go on a long-haul flight

Nick Percival
London surgeon
South African topless model Jennifer Frost recently went to the Penang clinic to have breast implants.

"The main thing that attracted me to it is that you get a holiday out of it," she says. "So I thought, 'Let me look a bit more at it', so I got the CV of the doctor.

"After I had spoken to the surgeon and got all the information, I was really happy with it."

But Nick Percival, a plastic surgeon in London and a member of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, warns there are a lot of pitfalls for tourists hoping to get cosmetic surgery abroad.

"What do you know about the surgeon who is doing this? If you fly out on a holiday you are just going to meet the surgeon, have the surgery - you know nothing about them.

"And what happens when things go wrong? If there are problems who is going to deal with them?

"Lastly, it's not generally a good idea to have a surgical operation and then go on a long-haul flight because there is this risk of deep vein thrombosis occurring.

"You increase the risk of that significantly if you go on a long-haul flight having had a operative procedure."

See also:

27 Aug 02 | 4x4 Reports
08 Jul 02 | 4x4 Reports
09 May 01 | Health
08 Aug 01 | Health
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