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Economic Effects of Medical Tourism Destinations

By Jean Duncan & Esther Jackson

Jean D

on 3 June 2015

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Transcript of Economic Effects of Medical Tourism Destinations

Economic Effects on
Medical Tourism Destinations

Jean Duncan & Esther Jackson
"When a person travels outside of their country of origin to receive essential or elective medical treatment"
Since 1980 Medical Tourism has increased globally by 35%

Push Factors
: High prices, poor quality, unavailability in origin country, body image dissatisfaction, regain physical health & to save one's life.
Pull Factors
: Low prices, high quality, availability, anonymity/privacy, cultural affiliation, geographical proximity and the added benefit of a holiday.

What is Medical Tourism?
Is it ethical? Context: Westerner's traveling to underdeveloped countries

Positive effects:
economic enhancement
tourism & hospitality industry benefits
professionals able to find work in own country
traveling patients able to afford procedures
Negative effects:
prices driven up - unreachable for locals
commodification of culture & medicine
loss of income for origin country institutions (medical practices & insurance firms)
Effects of Medical Tourism on the Destination (Ethics)
Positive Impacts
generates foreign exchange
stimulates trade, income and entrepreneurship
greater tax revenues= greater government spending
Increases employment and need for specialists
Negative impacts
Lower standard of living and income for locals
Creates an over-dependence on medical tourism
Over reliance on expatriate labour
Effects on Destination Economy
Case Study: Thailand
Thailand attracts over 15 million tourists a year.
Medical tourism industry growth rate = 16% a year.
Generated 46 billion baht in 2008
Thailand renowned medical procedures include:
Cosmetic surgery
Reproductive surgery and;
Weight loss surgery (Lapband)
Factors Influencing Medical Tourism in Thailand
Lower prices, according to patients without borders; Thailand offers a 50-80% savings than Western countries .
Increase of Medical Tourism in South-East Asia 1991 - 2015
Thailand's Economy
Thailand's Medical Tourism; Is it Ethical?
Simply NO!
Leaves locals abandoned with medical prices they cannot afford.
Creates the 'Brain drain' effect
Diverts government spending
System must be improved to continue growth and benefit all members of the destination
Recommendations for Thailand + alike countries
Provide extensive health care system catering to locals only eg. lower medical costs for locals
Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of Thailand.
Ensure preservation of cultural assets/ traditional values
Employ locals rather than westerners.
Create ways to improve quality of life e.g.
Create sustainability for the economy
Is Medical Tourism ethical? The consequences of an increasing rate of medical tourism
The medical tourism industry will continue to increase
Governments will continue to spend money on medical tourist services
Government spending will be diverted from local communities
Prices will remain too high for locals
30 Baht per consultation
Free for those falling into exemption categories
Every scheme participant may access registered health services.
Exemption categories include:
Children under 12 years of age
Senior citizens aged 60 years and over
The very poor, and volunteer health workers.
Increased demand on services of government hospitals
Medical service suppliers under- financed and under staffed
Worsening work conditions
Heavier workloads
More pressure on staff
5 star treatment
Major hospitals such as Bumrungrad and Samitivej are Western accredited
Accreditation as a Joint Commission International hospital
Physicians western trained and board- certified
Modern and advances technology
Holiday Benefit
There have been several events that have increased medical tourist numbers in Thailand these include:
September 11 terrorist attacks,
1997 collapse of the Thai currency
2004 Thailand tsunami
Tourists enjoy the idea of a procedure with the luxury of a holiday.

Hospital rooms have the feel of a luxury hotel
Recovery is experienced in resort facilities
Patients tend to stay and sight-see before and after surgery
Events that influenced Thailand's medical tourism
The 30 Baht scheme
Consequences of the theme
Medical Tourism is continuing to rise globally
Need increase in
ethical considerations
Economic effects on the Destination
Events effect an economy & tourism industry
Thailand's economy is being stimulated
However Thailand's inhabitants being adversely effected
Trend of increasing medical tourism may continue to diminish destination economy
Need for a focus on
Recommended to focus on local medical care to ensure no displacement or
reduction in standard of living/health
Connell, J. (2013) Contemprary medical tourism: Conceptualisation, culture and commodification.
Touism Management
, 34:1-13
Connell, J. (2010) Medical Tourism. Wallingford, CABI.
Hall, C.M. (Ed) (2013)
Medical Tourism. The ethics, regulation, and marketing of health mobility.
New York, NY: Routledge.
Reisman, D. (2010).
Health Tourism: Social Welfare Through International Trade.
Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing
Smith, M.K. and Puczko, L. (2009)
Health and Wellness Tourism.
Oxford, Butterworth Heinemann.
Thailand Tourism Development Authority. (2014) "Tourism Growth"
Thailand Economic Indicators. (2014) https://www.economy.com/dismal/countries/ITHA
Understanding the potential struggle of the locals, would this change your mind in terms of medical tourism?

What other recommendations can you think of to reduce the negative impact on Thailand's locals?

Do you know of any other economic impacts on alternative destinations?
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