As the trend of traveling abroad for more affordable or higher quality medical treatment gains momentum, All Nippon Airways, Turkish Airlines and Malaysia Airlines are fueling the medical tourism industry by offering discounts for passengers traveling for health purposes and partnering with medical centers and travel councils.
Increasing numbers of citizens from all over the world are traveling abroad for high quality, competitively-priced and alternative medical treatment not available or unaffordable in their home country. Popular procedures range from cosmetic surgery and dentistry to weight loss procedures; many patients travel for scans and tests or to get second opinions.
Airlines are fueling the industry by offering discounts for passengers traveling for health purposes and partnering with medical centers and travel councils. ANA is targeting Chinese travelers seeking healthcare in Japan with travel packages, including airfare and accommodation for those heading to partner medical centers. Turkish Airlines has offered flights at half price to medical tourists, while Malaysia Airlines has partnered with the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council to market Malaysia as a premier healthcare destination.
Medical tourists travel all over the world, with Asia as well as South and Central America being popular destinations. These countries offer affordable, available medical care in a holiday-like atmosphere. Top medical tourism destinations include Mexico, Singapore, India and Thailand due to the quality of care options and the luxury of recovering in a warm climate. The Philippines is also growing its medical tourism industry due to the growing number of English-speaking practitioners.
While much medical tourism is for optional or desired procedures, some travel for life changing treatments, either not available or with unattainable waitlists in their home countries. Carmen DeFoy, director of WAMS, a not-for-profit organization in Canada raising funds for multiple sclerosis sufferers to receive treatment abroad, traveled to San Diego for treatment in 2010. “After being diagnosed in Canada I felt like alternative therapy was my only option,” she said. “The CCSVI treatment [an angioplasty procedure], was not available in my home country. It was successful and now I work towards helping others achieve the same relief.”