A short summary on medical tourism in China

A quick summary of medical tourism in China

With gradual enhancement of China’s economic development level, tourism consumption has become a necessity for its citizens. Chinese tourists have dual demands on sightseeing and health care.  This has given birth to an emerging tourism form: medical tourism.

Medical tourism is becoming popular. The “2016 Online Medical Tourism Report” recently released by Ctrip Travel, an online travel service company, shows that the number of travelers who enroll in the overseas medical tourism through the platform in 2016 is five times of the previous year, and more than 500,000 Chinese visitors are expected to go on medical tourism. See the full summary of 2016 Medical Tourism Report here. At present, China is still an export origin for medical tourists. The domestic medical tourism market is still in its infancy.

A. “Therapy with Travel” and “Travel with Therapy”

The World Tourism Organization defines medical tourism as a tourism service that focuses mainly on medical care, disease and health, rehabilitation and self-cultivation. According to the view of Si-min Liu, vice president of Tourism Branch, the China Research Council for the Future, medical tourism, in fact, already existed in the country long ago. Leaving the habitat for sightseeing, vacationing, visiting relatives and friends, and seeking medical care are all included in the scope of tourism.

Current market of medical tourism can be divided into three categories:

  • first, vacation-style tourism to achieve therapeutic purposes by relaxing body and mind, diet conditioning, etc, for example, hot springs sauna in the south of France.
  • Second, medical beauty, plastic surgery, etc, for example, cosmetic surgery in South Korea and Japan.
  • Third, mainly disease treatments, for example, treatment of difficult miscellaneous diseases or surgery by using foreign equipment.

B. Market Allocation of Global Medical Resources

According to reports, outbound medical tourism is a high-end tourism, with customized tours as main product portfolio. The per capita cost of medical tourism orders at Ctrip in 2016 was more than 50,000 Yuan, about 10 times of per capita cost for China’s outbound tourism. In a travel site, an anti-cancer physical examination tourism product at The Medical Center in Osaka, Japan, is priced at 56,000 Yuan; a living cell therapy tourism product at a Swiss medical center starts at 300 thousand Yuan and up.

Such a high price tag of medical tourism makes it destined to be within the vision of medium-to-high income. “The price is too high, and ordinary people can’t enjoy it.” Little Yin is a senior tour pat, keen on traveling abroad by way of “travel on a budget”, said he mostly would not consider such an expensive travel approach.

Xiao-lei Xu also said: “The market will not develop such products until the demand is generated after the rise of the middle class.” Si-min Liu believes that medical resource is a kind of market resource. The information of Internet social enables people to know which country is leading the world in what medical technology. People with spending power will naturally seek the best medical services.

“As a service-oriented product, the comparative advantage is what attracts people to buy this product.” Said Si-min Liu. The fact that nowadays the Chinese people are keen on overseas medical tourism indicates that the Chinese people have joined the global market allocation process of medical resources.

C. Comparative advantage is not apparent; Domestic development is in the beginning stage

Since medical tourism combines the two hot industries of medical industry and the tourism industry, the industry is widely believed to have great market potential. At present, overseas medical tourism is becoming popular in China, but the development of medical tourism market taking domestic cities as destinations is still in its infancy.

One of the advantages of the development of domestic medical tourism is its relatively low cost, but compared with foreign countries, the comparative advantage of domestic technology and services has not yet appeared. Seeking medical services usually demands directness and explicitness. The main prerequisite for attracting consumers is the mastery of medical technology. “For China to develop medical tourism to attract foreign tourists to China, it is necessary to form the medical advantages.” Si-min Liu said.

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