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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

China’s Growing Medical Tourists

The growing number of outbound Chinese tourists travel to a number of places, for a number of reasons. One such motivation, the emerging trend of medical tourism, provides an interesting insight into where and why Chinese tourists are drawn to certain areas, and what DMOs can do to attract more tourism.

Though medical tourism was once reserved for only the wealthy members of society, higher incomes, awareness, and mobility have allowed more Chinese the ability to afford treatment abroad. The medical tourism market is broken up into two broad categories: those who are unable to find suitable treatment at home, and those who want cheaper procedures.

Though reform in China’s healthcare system has been developing at a fast rate, treatment for certain diseases and specific types of cancer can be rather difficult in China. Additionally, an ageing population also places pressure on the health care system, making countries like the with more specialized private doctors popular.

Cosmetic surgeries are also on the rise for Chinese tourists, and attract a whole range of tourists, from those looking for cheaper prices in developing countries to those looking for top-dollar specialists. South Korea is fast becoming ‘the destination’ for cosmetic surgery. In 2012, it was recorded that more than 32,000 mainland chinese visited South Korea to receive cosmetic surgery. It is predicted that this number is only going to grow.

Travel agencies are taking full advantage of this niche market by providing medical travel packages that include flights and accommodation. Other travel-related companies, like Beijing St Lucia Consulting, provide Chinese patients with information on overseas medical care. Earlier this week, partners of Discover LA Medical Care signed a Memorandum of Understanding, designed to draw Chinese people to Los Angeles in order to seek medical treatment. China Southern Airlines also signed on, having seen the potential business exposure and profits associated with these new developments.

With China’s middle class set to grow, continued interest in travel abroad, and the gap in the healthcare system, China’s medical tourism demographic doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.

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