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What Drives the Medical Tourism Market in 2024?

What compels someone to travel halfway around the world for a hip replacement or cancer therapy?
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The medical tourism market has gone from an emerging trend to a booming global industry over the last decade.  

In 2024, patients continue to flock across borders in search of high-quality, low-cost medical treatments for everything from dental overhauls in Mexico to advanced heart surgery in India.  

What compels someone to travel halfway around the world for a hip replacement or cancer therapy? 

The medical tourism market is propelled by a powerful mix of drivers – rising healthcare costs in developed nations, long wait times for certain procedures, and the impressive advances global medical hubs have made in attracting international patients.  

In this report, we’ll explore the complex forces fueling the medical tourism market and its potential future in the years ahead. 

What is Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism refers to the rapidly growing practice of traveling internationally to receive medical care.  

One common misconception about medical tourism is that medical travel is mostly done for cosmetic procedures, such as liposuction, rhinoplasty, and weight loss surgeries.  

While these are popular, it may come as a surprise that cancer treatments, fertility treatments, and transplant procedures are among the most popular non-cosmetic procedures, according to the CDC.   

In other words, medical tourism is an “umbrella” term that may include everything from complex surgical procedures and cutting-edge experimental treatments to elective surgeries like dental work or even a stay at a wellness retreat.  

The main allure of medical tourism is that it allows patients to access necessary treatments at a lower cost than would be available in their home country. Patients can also receive medical services more quickly, bypassing the lengthy wait times for specific procedures in their country of residence.   

Whether it’s a heart bypass, hip replacement, or dental work, this globalization of health care makes high-quality treatment much more accessible and affordable for many. 

Key Trends in the Medical Tourism Market

In the past, the medical tourism market was primarily dominated by those who traveled from less-developed countries to seek treatment in highly developed countries for services unavailable at home.   

However, the trend has shifted in recent years, with many people from richer, more developed countries traveling to developing countries for more affordable medical treatments.   

In the US, healthcare costs and the health insurance industry have pushed many Americans to explore options outside their borders. Cheap flights, ease of international travel, and a wealth of information on the Internet have all enabled and made it more convenient to access medical care abroad.  

And countries around the world are also stepping up to meet the rising demand.   

1) Growth of Specialized Medical Hubs

Countries known for their expertise in specific medical specialties are becoming key destinations for medical tourists.   

For example, countries like Thailand and South Korea are known for their expertise in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery and attract a growing number of patients seeking these procedures.   

Many people travel to Mexico, Hungary, or Costa Rica for dental treatments. Spain, India, and the Czech Republic are popular choices for fertility assistance. Meanwhile, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates are top destinations for orthopedic surgeries.  

With a growing number of specialized medical hubs, patients can be reassured that they are getting the best care for their specific needs, further boosting the appeal of medical tourism. 

2) Improved Patient Experience

A big deterrent for many international patients is the language and cultural barriers, the travel logistics, and the uncertainty of navigating an unfamiliar healthcare system.  

However, many hospitals and clinics are focusing and investing in providing a seamless patient experience. Their package deals, including treatments, travel, accommodation, and follow-ups, have helped ease patients’ concerns over the safety and quality of going under the knife overseas.   

From airport pickups and multilingual staff to dedicated concierge services, the emphasis is on providing a comfortable and hassle-free journey, which in turn makes patients satisfied and encourages positive word-of-mouth. 

3) Government-Led Initiatives

Certain countries have recognized the potential of medical tourism as a driver for social and economic development.  

For these reasons, more governments are actively engaging in research and development (R&D) projects related to medical tourism and are easing access to medical services for international patients through targeted initiatives. 

One such example is India ‘s introduction of the Ayush (AY) visa, which is for foreign nationals seeking traditional medical treatments, such as Ayurveda and Yoga.  

The South Korean government has also recognized the significance of medical tourism and introduced a “medical tourism” visa for those who receive medical services from registered healthcare providers, called facilitators. 

As of January 2023, Thailand has also recently introduced a new one-year visa program specifically designed to facilitate medical tourists’ entry into the country.  

Similarly, health officials in Dubai have launched the ‘Dubai in One Day‘ package to attract more medical tourists. This package offers comprehensive, convenient, and affordable health screening services for international patients.  

These efforts not only attract more international patients but also improve the global reputation of these countries’ healthcare systems. 

Market Analysis & Insights

The medical tourism market has grown significantly over the past decade, and the latest statistics show a continuous upward trajectory.   

In 2024, the market reached an impressive 84.92 billion and is projected to surpass 239.37 billion by 2029, reflecting a substantial compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.03%. 

According to a World Travel and Tourism Council study, international spending on medical tourism products and services increased by 358% in nominal terms between 2000 and 2017.  

The United States leads the global outbound medical tourism market, accounting for 20% of the total market. In 2017, US citizens spent approximately $2.3 billion on medical tourism services abroad.  

These numbers highlight the massive growth of this industry and reflect the increasing acceptance and popularity of medical tourism among patients worldwide. 

Market Expansion & Projections

The fertility treatments segment is expected to experience the fastest growth within the medical tourism market, with a projected CAGR of 9.7% during the forecast period.  

Fertility tourism, also known as reproductive tourism, is quickly expanding, with about 20,000 to 25,000 couples seeking assisted reproductive technology services abroad each year. 

Regarding location, the Asia-Pacific region leads the medical tourism market and is anticipated to maintain its dominance in the coming years. 

In 2022, Asia-Pacific accounted for more than one-third of the medical tourism market revenue, driven by factors such as affordable healthcare solutions, shorter waiting times, and skilled medical professionals.  

The Asia-Pacific market is expected to be the fastest-growing, with a projected CAGR of 10.8% during the forecast period. 

Leading Companies in the Medical Tourism Market

The medical tourism market is somewhat fragmented, with numerous local companies competing within the industry. Several prominent players stand out in the global medical tourism market, each offering specialized services and top-notch medical care.  

Some of these leading institutions, as noted in the Medical Tourism Market research by Fortune Business Insights, include: 

  • Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital (India) 
  • Apollo Hospitals (India) 
  • Asian Heart Institute (India) 
  • Barbados Fertility Center (Barbados)  
  • Fortis Healthcare Limited (India) 
  • KPJ Healthcare Berhad (Malaysia) 
  • Mount Elizabeth Hospitals (Singapore) 
  • NTT Medical Center Tokyo (Japan) 
  • Prince Court Medical Centre (Malaysia) 
  • Raffles Medical Group (Singapore) 
  • Samitivej PCL (Thailand) 
  • Seoul National University Hospital (South Korea) 
  • Wooridul Spine Hospital (South Korea) 

However, thanks to technological advancements and a commitment to quality service, mid-size and smaller companies are also gaining market share by offering new products at lower prices. 

Factors Driving Growth in Medical Tourism

The factors driving the medical tourism phenomenon are multi-faceted, but a few key trends have emerged as major catalysts for the industry’s explosive growth. 

One factor is the rising cost of medical care in wealthy Western nations, causing many to look for affordable alternatives.   

In the US alone, healthcare costs have increased 33% since 2014, with the average surgery cost exceeding $50,000. With potential savings of 30-80% by having procedures overseas, it’s no surprise that many Americans will travel for medical care this year.    

For example, heart bypass surgery costs around $11,000 abroad, nearly nine times less than the $144,000 it costs in the US.   

According to the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 43% of working-age adults were inadequately insured in 2022. As a result, many individuals face significant financial strain from even simple medical procedures.   

On the other hand, medical facilities abroad not only offer affordability but also boast state-of-the-art facilities and a commitment to investing in cutting-edge technological advancements, delivering outstanding care to patients. 

Market Outlook (2023 - 2030)

Overall, the future of the medical tourism industry looks promising, driven by continuous growth and emerging trends. 

According to Grand View Research, the global medical tourism market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25.22% from 2023 to 2030, reaching USD 75.3 billion by 2030.  

With more countries investing in healthcare infrastructure and promoting their medical services, the market will continue to expand, offering patients worldwide access to affordable and high-quality medical care. 

Written by Ivana Radevska

Senior Content Writer at Shortlister

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