Revised medical tourism figure from Visa

Visa has climbed down from its unbelievable estimate for global medical tourism, after claiming that the medical tourism market is worth a massive $449 billion in a recent report.

Recent claims of a $439 billion medical tourism market in a report from Visa and Oxford Economics have proved to be incorrect. The figures have been widely published and became “internet facts”

After challenges from IMTJ and other experts in medical tourism, Visa has had the good grace to offer an apology.

Visa has issued the following statement:

“Visa’s recent study, Mapping the Future of Global Travel and Tourism, included a figure that estimated the size of the medical tourism industry at $439 billion. This figure was sourced from an industry report, not from Visa data nor was it a part of the larger research effort on the future of global travel. Upon further review and based on additional information, Visa will be updating that figure at about $50 billion based on industry consensus. We apologize for the confusion this may have caused.”

$439 billion is a figure for wellness tourism that was reported in a 2013 study by the Global Wellness Institute.

Julie Munro of Medical Travel Quality Alliance comments, “The valuation was clearly a mistake but it was already spreading across the Internet like a weed. We asked Visa to check this figure, as it was curiously identical to a value for the wellness tourism. Online bloggers and news aggregators tend to accept even outrageous statements if they come from seemingly reliable sources. We all have a responsibility to stop transmitting this false information as it can wrongly influence government and private spending and investment in many countries around the world.”

The Medical Tourism Association were quick to jump on the original Visa figures, not to challenge it, but to claim that the industry is poised for up to 25% growth every year from now until 2025. That the MTA accepted the figure without challenge is surprising as the organisation claims to collect and publish figures on medical tourism both globally and by country. An infographic on their home page trumpets… 11 million medical tourists, up to 25% annual growth and a $439 million industry. $439 billion divided by 11 million patients would give an average medical tourist spend per person of just under $40,000. MTA failed to spot this glaring error.

Visa had the good grace to apologise for the massive error. The MTA is yet to follow suit.

However, the revised $50 billion figure for medical tourism may itself be an overestimate of the real market size.