Global medical tourism growth predicted

The global medical tourism industry will restore its growth momentum from 2023, claims a new report from the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI).

As the Covid-19 pandemic weakens to an endemic, the global medical tourism industry will restore its growth momentum from 2023, claims the report, “Major countries medical tourism industry trends amid the Covid-19 pandemic era”.

It states that the global medical tourism industry had grown rapidly since the turn of the 2000s but fell into a slump in 2020 due to the outbreak of Covid-19. Policies taken by many governments to curb the pandemic’s spread, such as border restrictions, self-quarantine, and the mandatory conduct of PCR tests, resulted in steep decreases in foreign medical tourists’ arrivals.

According to KHIDI, the report’s author, the global medical tourism market is forecast to grow to US$180 billion by 2025. It states that Glasgow Research & Consulting, a Dubai-based consultancy, predicts that the global medical tourism market is expected to expand by up to 9.7% a year until 2025, and about 44 million people will likely move across borders to receive medical care.  Independent research by IMTJ has estimated the global market size for medical travel was US$15-20 billion in 2019.

The report explains that for the predicted growth will come from some countries, where the driver is insufficient healthcare and a long wait for selective surgery, forcing many patients to look for opportunities overseas.

The authors believe there is a steady demand among people in advanced countries for treatment and surgery not covered by health insurance in their countries, such as cosmetic surgery (breast and liposuction), obesity surgery, infertility treatment, organ transplantation, dentistry, and diagnosis. The report also suggests some patients who want to receive cosmetic or transgender surgeries opt for medical tourism to protect their privacy.

Many governments are announcing policies and plans to reinvigorate their medical tourism industry by restoring them to the pre-Covid-19 levels. Thailand, Malaysia, India, and Singapore are among the most active countries in making such efforts.

The report states that the Korean medical tourism industry’s profile is not very high, when seen from abroad. It suggests that Korea needs to prepare for some factors that restrict the medical tourism industry’s recovery, including the appearance of new virus variants and additional travel restrictions.