February 21, 2017

Health is wealth, and affluent Asian consumers are looking to take better care of themselves according to a recent report by the Affluent Insights Luxury Study. Respondents in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and United States, reveal a wish to focus more on their health in light of the uncertain economic and political climate.

And, developers are looking to capitalise on this trend as the affluent Asian baby boomers prepare for active ageing.

Retiring in style
Luxury retirement villages are commonplace in the West – the posh new Battersea Place in London and Bethlehem Shores in New Zealand to name but two.
And now Asia is jumping on the bandwagon. In late January, Singapore’s Banyan Tree Holdings and Chinese real estate firm, Vanke, announced a 50/50 joint venture to own and manage Banyan Tree properties in mainland China which will look to develop senior-living and active ageing projects using Banyan Tree’s expertise in wellness.

Late 2016, Thai property firm, Sunplay Bangsaray launched The Heights in Bangsaray, the first-of-its-kind upmarket active ageing residence in Thailand. The development is close to golf courses, yacht club and medical facilities and boasts facilities such as jogging and bike trails within the compound.

“There is definitely a demand for high-end retirement homes in specific markets in Asia, such as China where parents and children live great distances apart and there is a growing affluent upper to middle class that can afford these facilities,” says Noeleen Goh, from JLL’s Asia Capital Markets team, specialising in senior living. “But these developments have to be tailored according to where demand is coming from – taking into account the demographics and culture of target buyers.”

Mindsets may also need to change; the more traditional might feel embarrassed about checking themselves into a retirement village while others may prefer to rely on domestic help, particularly with labour costs in Asia remaining relatively affordable.

Goh adds that developers of upmarket retirement homes must ensure excellent basics to secure clientele. “Seniors have changing needs. They may be very healthy and active in their 60s but things could change rapidly when they hit their 70s and 80s. Retirement homes and villages need to be able to increase the level of care and extent of services whether it’s housekeeping, meals or nursing,” she explains.

Travelling well
Wellness and medical tourism is another sector witnessing a boom. The Global Wellness Institute estimates that global wellness tourism is now worth more than US$563.2 billion and expected to grow to more than US$800 billion by 2020.

The appeal of wellness travel is extending beyond the affluent, with more middle class Asian couples and families seeing it as a great way to spend quality time and share positive experiences, observes Frank Sorgiovanni, Asia Pacific Head of Research, JLL Hotels and Hospitality. “I believe people are looking for a more peaceful and healthier break from their hectic lives. They are also looking to further enhance their holidays and return home with their lives enhanced,” he says, adding that new hot Asian hotspots include Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Over in Malaysia, real estate and investment company Rowsley Ltd is pumping in RM5 billion to develop Vantage Bay Healthcare Malaysia’s City in Iskandar, comprising a specialist hospital, urban wellness resort and wellness retail services to serve as a one-stop hub for medical tourism.

The stiff competition for medical tourists has affected Singapore as foreign patients flock to cheaper alternatives in Malaysia and Thailand, while Singaporeans themselves head across the Causeway for treatment.
As a result, private healthcare operators in Singapore such as Parkway Pantai are looking outwards – setting up the ParkwayHealth Chengdu Hospital, which will occupy 48,000 square meters and provide up to 350 beds in the Western Chinese city that is slated to open in the second half of this year.

The development of these facilities and demand for premium healthcare have a knock-on impact on related services and human capital. “Diseases of affluence such as heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer will require specialist attention and care,” says John Mortensen, Director in Corporate Solutions, with a focus on healthcare services. “A chronic shortage of doctors exists. China currently has 1.5 doctors per 1,000 people, compared to 2.8 in Britain and 1.9 in Brazil. Specialist geriatric nurses are also in high demand, and the easing of the one-child policy will create a further demand for mid-wives and obstetricians.”

“Medical training facilities and medical schools should not be overlooked in the equation.”


Noeleen Goh

JLL Capital Markets, Asia Pacific