Markets Open up for Medical Tourism to Taiwan

TAIWAN: Investors see medical tourism potential in Taiwan

Taiwan Land Development Corporation plans to build three healthcare villages in Hualien, Kiment and Hsinchu, capitalizing on the surging popularity of medical tourism. Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) is a national research organization that serves to strengthen the technological competitiveness of Taiwan. ITRI suggests that the global medical tourism industry is worth US$40 billion in 2010, with up to 40 million people being medical travellers.

Taiwan Land Development Corporation believes that Taiwan offers excellent medical care, so can take advantage of business opportunities in medical tourism as it has gained a reputation in the world and is particularly respected by the Chinese. A recent economic cooperation framework agreement between China and Taiwan will encourage trade and tourism between the two countries.

Development of the village in the eastern county of Hualien is progressing well, and the company will apply to the Hualien county government in November to reserve 20 hectares of the village specifically for international travellers. The company will provide medical-related hardware and software and team up with hospitals to attract business from those seeking health checkups and cosmetic surgery in Taiwan. Many of the Chinese who will soon be permitted to travel to Taiwan individually are expected to seek cancer screenings and cosmetic surgery.

In 2008, about 5000 went to the island to undergo health checkups and cosmetic surgery. In 2009, that increased 40,000, mostly from China. More than 100,000 are predicted annually, as fast as Taiwan can build and staff hospitals. The market is set to expand when Taiwan opens to Chinese tourists on a foreign individual travel basis in early 2011. Taiwan’s hospital care is world-class. Despite a massive effort at upgrading its health care system, China’s is not.

Two years ago, Taiwan instituted an ambitious plan to make the country appealing to foreigners seeking healthcare by adding the check box "medical care" to visa application forms. Taiwan had a very hard time attracting Europeans and Americans not of Chinese origin. But the opening of Taiwan to Chinese tourists after 2008 has made a huge difference. Although for the time being mainlanders are allowed only group travel to the island, local hospital business has been flourishing from the influx of cross-strait patients. Taiwanese businessmen based in have China set up health and medical clubs with annual membership fees for Chinese members to be taken by the clubs on six-day trips to Taiwan that include physical check-up services.

Members of a 17-person tour group from Shinkong Medical Club of China's Jiangsu province praised Taiwan's medical advancements after a week-long sampling of Taiwan's medical tourism. 12 had full-body non-invasive health checks at Taipei City's Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital in Taipei as well as residing at a five-star natural hot spring resort in Taoyuan County and enjoying tailor-made nutritional meals throughout their stay. The entire package costs US$2000, about twice the price of a regular tour package.

Taiwan's medical tourism will become one of the biggest attractions for mid-to high-income Chinese tourists. Although other countries, such as India, Thailand and Japan are all targeting Chinese for medical tourism, Taiwan is the best choice for Chinese tourists because there is no language barrier, the cost is reasonable and there is a sense of warmth and familiarity between Chinese and Taiwanese people.

(Source: 22 Oct 2010)

Taiwan Medical tourism
Taiwan is promoting itself as a medical-tourism destination. Taipei has many hospitals with modern and sophisticated equipment. The cost is low compared to other countries; liver-transplant surgery costing US $91,000 compared with $300,000 in the USA.Although Taiwan may want high spending Americans and Europeans, the reality is different. The low prices and expertise are attracting many people from China to go to Taiwan to have surgery. That has become much easier since restrictions for Chinese tourists to Taiwan were lifted in mid-2008. But they have to come in organized groups. The government recognizes this puts off independent Chinese travellers and has recently announced that Chinese tourists will soon be allowed to travel individually to Taiwan.The country’s biggest travel agency, hopes to grow quickly by offering medical and health tourism packages to attract Chinese tourists to the island. Travel set up a specialist medical tourism section last year, soon after Taiwan began to see an inflow of Chinese tourists who, for the first time in 60 years, were allowed to visit Taiwan in tour groups. The company began by operating tour groups with medical services as part of the package, attracting wealthy Chinese with slogans such as “Mommy comes to Taiwan, and returns looking like your sister.” While the number of groups is still relatively small, the company expects business to grow about 30 per cent every year for the next few years, and much more if travellers can come on their own. Taiwan's current policy only permits controlled tour groups from the mainland, which limits options for Chinese who seek varied medical services. Under group-travel restrictions, tourists are told where they can go and when. They cannot deviate from the set itinerary. Dr.David Wang of the Taiwan Medical Tourism Development Association says, ”Chinese patients seeking operations can now plan ahead and book Botox treatments and cosmetic on their own schedule.” Wang travels to China once a month to promote his cosmetic surgery practice.According to Taiwan government statistics, 972,000 tourists from China went to the island in 2009,  a 195% increase on 2008. Chinese aviation officials recently announced a 10% to 15% reduction in fares for flights between the two countries. Over a million will visit this year. Exactly how many are health or medical tourists is unknown.Richard Wu of Taiwan Task Force for Medical Travel says. "Our priority is to promote Taiwan as a brand name and then promote individual hospitals for services. That customers will now be able to travel to Taiwan individually will help. Few would join a group tour that lets everyone else know they are going for cosmetic surgery or other medical reasons.” 


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