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Top 8 outbound medical tourism hotspots for China's affluent

By Juwai, 20 October 2016
chinese outbound medical tourism destinations

By 2020, over 800,000 Chinese are expected to head overseas for medical and healthcare treatments.1

Driven by an increasingly ageing population, more and more Chinese are now factoring healthcare into their outbound investment strategies.

With Chinese outbound medical tourism now rapidly on the rise, it’s time to figure out where they’re heading to in order to tap into the opportunity presented by this fast-growing trend.


Where are Chinese going for outbound medical treatments?

Interestingly, while China’s super wealthy favour the US2 or parts of Europe2 for medical holidays, China’s middle-class prefer more affordable treatment options in South Korea2, Singapore2, or Thailand.2

Here are 8 booming medical tourism destinations – and potential property hotspots – for Chinese that are set to grow:

United States

With four hospitals ranking in the top ten facilities in the world3, combined with extensive travel links between China and US cities, and recent visa policy changes to quicken visa application processes4, it’s no surprise why the US dominates as one of the most popular destinations for Chinese seeking medical treatment abroad.


At just a mere 2-3 hours away by plane and offering increasingly liberalised visas for Chinese visitors, Japan is a highly-accessible and popular medical tourism destination for Chinese, especially for standard health checks.5 Japan invests heavily in its health system6, hence its health system is not only one of the world’s best equipped and most cost-effective7, but also one of the most fastidious and reliable ones. This makes Japan highly attractive to Chinese patients – many who are jaded with China’s tenuous medical offerings – which explains the 310,00 Chinese medical tourists expected to visit Japan by 2020.8


Boasting first-rate medical facilities, such as the Asklepios Klinik in Hambur, Germany is ranked as the fifth-best medical system in the world by the US-based Commonwealth Foundation. Germany is also home to the second-best medical facilities in the world, as voted by Medical Tourism Index9, and this largely due to the fact that the German government is the second-largest investor in healthcare among the countries in the OECD.10

United Kingdom

Ranked top out of 11 of the world’s wealthiest countries in a study by the US-based Commonwealth Foundation11, the UK healthcare system is a huge draw for Chinese medical tourists, particularly for those in search for liver transplants.5 Besides that, its quality of care, efficiency, and low cost at the point of service are also other factors attracting Chinese medical tourists to the UK – now even more so with the pound’s depreciation post-Brexit.


Proximity, cultural and language similarities, as well as great food make Singapore a popular option for Chinese medical tourists. Singapore’s excellent facilities, such as the Gleneagles Hospital, is made even more compelling by Singapore’s move to relax visa requirements for Chinese travellers12 – 9,000 Chinese medical tourists ventured to the Lion City in 2015 for treatment.13


Excellent and fast-growing range of medical facilities have rendered Thailand as one of the biggest medical tourism markets in the world, attracting an astonishing 2.81 million overseas patients in 2015.14 A big reason can be attributed to the Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, which not only offers a range of premier and VIP suites and 24-hour hotline service, but even provides an embassy contact service, a visa application assistance service, reception service, and airport transfer service – making it a luxury medical experience that is on par with a 5-star hotel.15 Having received approximately 7,500 Chinese customers in the past year, Bumrungrad Hospital added a ward staffed by Chinese speakers16, adding to a customer base that has been growing at approximately 25% per year.17

South Korea

A favourite for Chinese medical tourists seeking cosmetic surgery, South Korea’s medical tourism drive, including specialised medical visas for foreign patients, saw 56,000 Chinese medical tourists visits in 2014.2 Last year, that number surged to 179,000 Chinese patients, who spent $1 billion on hospital fees, accommodation, and travel in South Korea13 – making Chinese the largest group of foreign patients in South Korea.18


Low cost, increasingly accessibility, and with an expanding range of private hospital chains like Fortis, Appollo, and Max, India – currently ranked as the top country in the world by Medical Tourism Index19 – is a rising major location for medical tourism with Chinese to keep an eye on. This is especially for those seeking treatment for diseases, such as Hepatitis C.20


China to surpass the US as biggest outbound medical tourism market

China is positioned to be one of the largest outbound medical tourism markets21, and there’s seemingly no stopping it.

China’s population is ageing fast, which means more and more Chinese are discovering serious health problems that comes along with old age. At the same time, China’s wealth has also been growing at a rapid pace.

134 million of China’s 250 million urban households will be middle-class or above by 2020 – half of which will be classes as affluent.13

In other words, there will be more than 400 million Chinese who would potentially have the means to afford medical treatments abroad.13

Considering that China has now launched health insurance plans that cover travel benefits as well19, and the fact that transport links between China and the outside world are expanding faster than ever to offer even more accessibility, China’s increasingly international and wealthy outbound medical tourists is a niche market that will undoubtedly grow, and deserves much attention.

This is especially true for developers and agents who market the top 8 countries above, as China’s outbound medical tourism looks set to give international property investment a solid boost as well. Find out why and how here.



Sources: 1. Global Growth Markets; 2. SCMP: Top 5 destinations for China’s medical tourists; 3. Global Healthcare: Top 10 global hospitals; 4. Quartz: It’s now easier than ever for Chinese citizens to visit the US and spend money; 5. Worldcrunch; 6. OECD: Health at a Glance 2015: How does Japan compare?; 7. New York University: Health systems: Japan and US compared; 8. China Daily: Combining treatment with trips overseas; 9. Medical Tourism Index: Germany; 10. The Guardian: Which country has the world's best healthcare system?; 11. The Independent: NHS means British healthcare rated top out of 11 western countries, with US coming last; 12. Medical Tourism Magazine: Chinese medical tourism – a new wave; 13. Medical Tourism Magazine: Chinese medical tourism; 14. Wikipedia: Medical Tourism; 15. Global Growth Markets: The new wave in Chinese medical tourism; 16. SCMP: From surgery to service, there's something for every tourist; 17. Bumrungrad Hospital attracts Chinese patients for its high-quality care and facilities; 18. Visit Medical Korea; 19. Medical Tourism Index: India; 20. China Outbound Tourism Research Institute: The rapid growth of the China’s medical tourism attracts international attention; 21. Medical Tourism Association