WTTC study: Medical tourism soars

LONDON, 25 November 2019: The World Travel & Tourism Council, which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, has released its latest research, revealing a staggering growth in global medical tourism.

The report shows the  US leading the way in terms of both inbound and outbound spending with Kuwait the second largest source market for outbound medical tourism.

Turkey, Thailand, Jordan, Costa Rica and Mexico are some of the leading emerging economies for medical tourism inbound spending.

The report, ‘A Prescription for a Healthier Economy’, shows international spending on medical tourism products and services grew by 358% in nominal terms between 2000 and 2017, increasing from USD2.4 billion to USD11 billion. This growth resulted in spending on medical tourism, reaching 1.2% of international visitor spending in 2017, compared to just 0.6% in 2000.

According to the report, the US is the world’s leading outbound medical tourism market, representing 20% of the market, with US citizens spending USD2.3 billion on medical tourism services abroad in 2017.

Kuwait is the second-largest source market for outbound medical tourism, spending over USD1.5 billion in 2015, largely due to its government policy of supporting and financing medical procedures abroad.

Nigeria is the third largest outbound source market, spending USD783mn on medical tourism in 2017, representing 13.5% of total outbound spend.

Notably, of the top 10 largest markets for outbound spend, five are European countries, with the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Austria and Germany, spending between USD300mn to USD678mn.

The US is also the largest destination market for inbound medical tourists, with spending reaching almost USD4 billion in 2017, and representing nearly 36% of global medical tourism spending.

In second and third respectively in terms of inbound medical tourism are France (USD800 million) and Turkey (USD76 million), with the latter being home to 43 JCI accredited healthcare institutions.

The Joint Commission International (JCI), is one of the leading international healthcare accreditation organisations that promote rigorous standards of healthcare.

Emerging economies for medical tourism include Thailand, where USD589 million (1% of overall inbound tourism spending), Costa Rica, where USD451 million (12.1% of overall inbound tourism spending), and Mexico with USD315 million (1.5% of overall inbound tourism spending) was attributed to medical tourism.

Of the top 10 largest markets for inbound spend, five are European countries, with Belgium, the UK and Hungary joining France and Turkey, spending between USD417 million to USD636 million.

As destinations work towards developing their medical tourism sub-sector, WTTC recommends the following elements should be considered as governments develop their strategies and policies.

Policy Priorities

Establish smart regulation and recognised accreditation of medical practitioners and facilities.

Develop enabling visa facilitation policies which support the development of this sub-sector.

Define the skills gap and training opportunities to enhance talent.

Design and implementing targeted marketing strategies.

Create financial incentives to attract investment into the sub-sector.

Said WTTC president & CEO, Gloria Guevara: “ As we can see from our latest research, medical tourism is an important and emerging area of interest for the Travel & Tourism sector. It is important that we continue to understand the reasons that people travel, and in many cases work to support policies that enhance the ability for travellers to seek treatment abroad.”

To download the report in full, please click here.