Indonesia could expand the country’s medical tourism market by exploiting traditional medicines like Mak Erot.
Indonesia’s Minister of Health Terawan Agus Putranto has reportedly declared ‘penis enlargement massages’, known locally as Mak Erot, to be a national asset that has the potential to attract medical tourists.
Putranto told local media that tourists will come from abroad for it and other traditional medicines like it if packaged correctly.
“We must popularise the idea of traditional medicine for tourism,” Putranto told local media, as translated by VICE. “We have an incredible herbal medicine industry that no one knows about outside Indonesia.”
Among the medicines the Minister of Health cited were Tongkat Ali (a leaf said to boost athletic performance), Purwaceng (a plant supplement with viagra-like properties) and Mak Erot (penis enlargement massages), which he said are exploitable for attracting tourists.
Petranto also mentioned kerok as a possible source of medical tourism.
Kerok involves rubbing a coin against the skin of the back with menthol oil in straight lines, which slightly damages blood vessels. Locally, this is believed to remove unwanted substances from the body by bringing the blood closer to the surface of the skin.
“Don’t underestimate kerok. If we had 100 rooms and it takes 20 minutes per person, imagine how much revenue that would generate,” Putranto said.
“There are many other cultural gems that we have not exploited because we take them for granted. But to foreigners, it’s something intriguing.”
The response to the proposal from the Minister of Health has been mixed, with Untung Suseno, head of the Ministry of Health’s Tourism working group, agreeing that Indonesia has the potential to expand its health tourism industry but said this will occur through spas, as reported by VICE.
Meanwhile, a well-known Indonesian surgeon who claims to often treat patients who have fallen victim to Mak Erot has criticised Putranto’s ideas.
“I hope that’s a joke. Because if it’s not, it means he doesn’t know what Mak Erot is doing,” Teuku Adifitrian told Tempo.
The doctor, who is also a musician who goes by the stage name Tompi, said that other health services should be prioritised. He also added that Putranto’s plans to expand health tourism could not be applied yet.
“Not that it’s wrong, it’s a good idea. But it should involve other ministries. I think [the idea] is still far to be implemented as long as the health cost is still high. It’s difficult,” Adifitrian said.
Travel Weekly has contacted Indonesia Travel for comment.