Every year, millions of tourists travel abroad to find health services that adjust to their particular needs, which has turned Health Tourism into one of the industries with the most economic profitability across the world.
According to a study by Dinámica del Turismo de Salud Internacional (International Health Tourism Dynamics), this sector reported a total of $84 billion dollars income last year, and it is estimated that around 14 million people travel abroad every year looking for health services, with an average expenditure that fluctuates between $3,800 and $6,000 US dollars per trip, including transport and accommodation services.
The international health tourism sector has its origin in the economic crisis of countries which developed between the ‘60s and ‘80s, mainly in the United States, which motivated retirees and veterans to look for medical treatment in countries like Mexico and Cuba. The leading cause for people going to other places to get healthcare services is the low cost. For example, savings in Mexico, compared to the USA, go from 36% to 89% for similar medical procedures and treatments.
As the World Health Organization (WHO) states, dental health services, cosmetic surgeries, elective surgeries and fertility treatments are the most sought medical services by tourists. The WHO also says that there is not one common definition for “health tourism”, leading every country to apply their development model according to their own definition.
The Mexican Department of Economy divides health tourism in:
Medical tourism (surgical procedures and treatments with medication; outpatient processes, dental, ophthalmological and some cosmetic changes).
Wellness tourism (activities related to relaxation, lifestyle, beauty treatments, spas, spiritual retreats, retirement homes for senior citizens).
The health tourism industry in Mexico increased from $2.9 billion US dollars in 2008, to $4.7 billion US dollars in 2016, and in 2017 the figure reached more than 5 billion US dollars.
Last year, as a strategy for the development of health tourism in Mexico, the first stage of the tourist complex Koral Center was built in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur. Its infrastructure includes 95 hotel rooms, full hospital services, delivery rooms, doctor’s offices, three operating rooms and an emergency area.
Thanks to the implementation of complementary health service strategies with a wide offer of attractions and first-rate tourist destinations, Mexico exceeded the 1 million health tourist mark from 2012, positioning itself as the second most visited destination in the world for this purpose, surpassed only by Thailand with 1.2 million visitors.
Some of the most important health tourism destinations are Costa Rica, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and the United Stated of America.
Insurance companies, medical institutions such as hospitals, clinics and health centers, as well as governmental and travel agencies, are all part of the structure that integrates the international health tourism sector, and the agreements between them allow Medical Tourism to grow exponentially.
Health tourism is the result of the first global dynamics that revalue individual health as a fundamental aspect for human development, which has been accompanied by an effusive modernization process of the infrastructure of health and education programs and medical staff training in developing countries.
Throughout the next decades, the senior population will increase in European countries and North America, and so the demand for these services in regions such as Latin America and South Asia.
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