Hong Kong should develop medical and beauty tourism to meet the rising demand for high-value products and services in the mainland, a think tank has suggested.
The first research report on mainland- Hong Kong economic relations by Our Hong Kong Foundation pointed to the growth in urban population and household income in the mainland, which would lead to increased mainlanders’ demand for high-value products and services.
And Hong Kong should seize the opportunity to provide high-value services – including medical and beauty tourism, and cruise tourism, as well as meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibition tourism – the Tung Chee-hwa-founded foundation recommended.
Hong Kong has the potential to develop medical tourism, but lacks a sufficient supply of medical professionals in public hospitals, the report said.
It suggested any medical services provided for foreign patients in the preliminary stage should be focused in areas where there is “surplus capacity,” such as physical check-ups and follow-ups.
The report said the average annual growth rate of the mainland’s beauty-care services reached 20 percent in the past five years. It recommended the SAR develop its technologies-assisted beauty- care services, which the foundation believes will be the future trend.
The mainland has the largest share of Hong Kong’s export and import of services, with travel services accounting for 73 percent of all service exports to the mainland in 2014.
Throughout that year, 52 percent of all mainland tourists visited Hong Kong through the Individual Visit Scheme. Their spending was mostly on retail, which generated limited added value for the SAR, as most consumer goods are imported.
High-end tourism – such as medical and beauty-care tourism – can bring more economic benefits and impose less stress on our infrastructure, the report said.
Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki believes it is impractical for Hong Kong to develop medical tourism at this stage.
“There are not enough beds, nurses or personnel [in public hospitals],” said Kwok, who is a doctor. He urged the government to address all supply problems in the sector before launching medical tourism, which he believes will take up to 15 to 20 years.
Dermatologist Kingsley Chan Hau- ngai, a council member of the Hong Kong Medical Association, said the industry has all the technological equipment ready for developing beauty-care tourism, but lacks the appropriate policies and platforms to promote their services, for which the government is accountable