MoniTourism
Healthcare Medical Tourism Monitourism

Healthcare Tourism Healing Patients and Economies.

While healthcare continues to be a hot-button issue in the global marketplace, popular medical tourism destinations like Sri Lanka are relying ever-more on low-cost healthcare systems to drive their travel and tourism industries. What do Sri Lanka’s experiences say about the state of the medical tourism segment as a whole? Are low-cost healthcare tourism destinations the way of the future? Or, will the luxury healthcare tourism market become an even more lucrative segment? The MoniTourism Editorial Team investigates the scope of these low-cost healthcare tourism destinations within the medical tourism segment and explores their potential impacts on the global travel and tourism industry.

With the global supply of affordable and accessible healthcare still failing to meet demand in today’s medical marketplace, popular medical tourism destinations like Sri Lanka are relying ever-more on low-cost healthcare systems to drive their travel and tourism industries.

Because of the cost-competitiveness of their healthcare services, these medical tourism destinations are increasingly able to offer inbound travelers and tourists more healthcare purchasing power than their home countries. As a result, low-cost healthcare options are driving inbound travelers and tourists to opt for medical tourism packages purposefully designed to bring money, business, and people to a number of low-cost medical tourism destinations.

At the launch event for the 2014 INTRAD Expo in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Rishad Bathiudeen, the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry and Commerce, cited high levels in the quality and accessibility of trained healthcare professionals, treatment centers, and pharmaceuticals in Sri Lanka as a major contributor to the country’s growing rate of service exports in 2013.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Agency (SLTDA) also reported a record number of tourist arrivals in 20131 – a 27% rise from the year previous – while the tourism industry in Sri Lanka - one of the fastest growing economies in the world -  has continued its exponential growth over the past four years. But, what do Sri Lanka’s experiences say about the state of the low-cost healthcare tourism market segment - as well as the medical tourism segment – as a whole?

Other medical tourism destinations with low-cost healthcare systems like Malaysia and Ukraine are honing their market strategies. To attract the attention of the global medical tourism market, the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) has begun pairing international medical expertise with cutting-edge technology and infrastructure to create travel and tourism packages designed around the concept of affordable and accessible ‘healthcare holidays.’

And, Ukraine is following suit. With state-of-the-art hospitals and first-rate surgeons and nurses at the ready, industry professionals in the country’s capital of Kiev are using the latest medical technology to perform complex and invasive surgeries on patients from around the globe, part of the country’s burgeoning medical tourism segment2. Kiev is also preparing to host the International Exhibition of Medical Tourism, Spa & Wellness – Healthcare Travel Expo in April in conjunction with the country’s sixth-annual International Medical Forum on medicinal innovations and national health3, establishing the country as a leading source for healthcare service trends and innovations in the medical tourism industry.

As travelers and tourists continue to demand healthcare services with higher and higher price-performance ratios, healthcare tourism continues to make waves in the medical tourism segment. But, who will lead the new wave? Are low-cost healthcare tourism destinations the way of the future? Or, will the luxury healthcare tourism market become an even more lucrative segment?

While healthcare systems continue expanding their medical service offerings – and, as a result, become increasingly specialized and segmented – it is possible that low-cost healthcare tourism destinations like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Ukraine could quickly become highly lucrative, developing highly exclusive niche markets and - consequently - establishing themselves not only as cost-effective healthcare service options but as premium destinations for specific medical services as well.

On the other hand, since the ability to offer high-end medical tourism packages requires a combination of technology and infrastructure – both of which take considerable amounts of time and money to build – not all low-cost healthcare systems may be able to keep up with a demand for healthcare that is becoming more complex, holistic, and patient-specific with each passing day. In fact, there is a strong chance that the international medical services market will become bi-segmented, split between general medical services with affordable travel packages and cutting-edge healthcare options with premium and custom tourist offerings.

In the end, it seems only logical that destinations with the most affordable combinations of knowledgeable industry professionals and up-to-the-minute services and products will have the strongest chances of becoming leaders of the new global healthcare tourism market. But, governments cannot do it alone. And, as is always the case, it is important to ask: Who, ultimately, will be footing the bill for the required cross-industry investment?

Players from the worlds of healthcare, hospitality, medicine, and manufacturing are certainly all watching the market and studying the trends. And, we at MoniTourism are watching them, keeping you up-to-date with a new report on Medical Tourism coming soon. In the meantime, let us know how you see the future of a healthcare tourism market that promises to heal patients and economies alike.

 

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