IMTJ warns China outbound medical traveller estimates are overhyped

The South China Morning Post has this week published comments by Keith Pollard, IMTJ editor in chief, about the potential in targeting outbound Chinese medical tourists. Although estimates for the number of Chinese medical tourists range as high as 3 million annually, he suggests the number is probably fewer than 500,000.

The article says that the potential payoff from outbound Chinese medical tourists remains unclear. While Mr Pollard says the estimates of current outbound Chinese medical tourists might be over stated, he goes on to state that “China is the biggest outbound tourist source worldwide. Medical travel does tend to follow that.”

The uneven level of care can prompt Chinese nationals who can afford it to seek treatment elsewhere. “If you look at the survival rate for cancer in China as opposed to other parts of the world, the rate in China is so much lower, patients who can afford it will certainly travel for care” said Mr Pollard.

When questioned about the potential of the Middle East as a medical tourism destination, Mr Pollard goes on to say, “There is a lot of change going on in the markets in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Those countries have always been a rich source of patients for destinations like Germany, the US, and the UK, and that has changed significantly in recent years.”