Medical tourism is booming all over the world. It is estimated that 6 million people travel internationally each year to seek medical treatment, with the sector estimated to be worth around US$100 billion in 2012, growing at an annual rate of 20-30%. Thailand, India, South Korea and Singapore attract more than 60,000 Chinese who travel abroad for medical treatment each year. This industry is filled with opportunities for foreigners who have what it takes to tackle this market.

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Overview of this trend


Even if you are not in the Tourism industry, you might want to attract Chinese tourists after you take a look at the numbers. In fact, over the last few years, several niche markets have gained significant attention, such as Educational Tourism and Medical tourism, because of its vast potential.


Chinese people took an estimated 500,000 outbound medical trips in 2016, a fivefold increase from a year earlier, according to International, a Chinese travel booking company, which offers medical travel on its website. While the bulk of that is focused on plastic surgery and routine examinations, medical travel agencies say the number of critically ill Chinese patients leaving the country for medical treatment is growing.

It is estimated that there are at least 30 agencies in China with the main business plan being the planning of medical trips. In the medical tourism market alone, 440 billion USD was spent in 2013. Needless to say, it is a very lucrative market.


Medical outbound Tourism

Why do Chinese people look for medical treatment abroad? Well, the first reason is value for money. According to a survey undertook by Ipsos on Medical Tourism in 24 countries, 7 out of 10 Chinese people among the respondents stated they would search for overseas medical treatments.

Other reasons include better overall healthcare services and advanced technology. The main destinations for Chinese “tourists” or more specifically patients going overseas for medical treatments are The United States, UK, Germany, Thailand, Japan, and South Korea.



Saint Lucia Consulting, a medical tourism agency which opened in Beijing, China in 2011, said to China daily a few years ago that the majority of their clients were looking for high-end medical services they couldn’t find in China.

The United States  

Andrew Warshaw, director at MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital) who is in charge of international patients, stated that many Chinese patients come to the US after having received treatment in China. Their lack of satisfaction is what drives them to make the decision to travel to the US.

Ms. Wang and her husband are one of them; they had to sell their apartment and go beyond their budget to make this trip. Miss Wang said that she didn’t expect the medical treatments to be so expensive. Ms. Zhu wrote a post about the couple’s experience in the US and the post went viral on several Chinese social media platforms.

In terms of financial resources, the average budget for a trip overseas to receive medical treatments for a Chinese tourist is between 100 000 RMB – 700 000 RMB. Medical care is just one manifestation of China’s wide wealth disparity. A new generation of affluent Chinese can seek help at private hospitals or travel abroad, as the rest must endure long waits and find their treatment lacking.



According to the Health Ministry of Thailand, more than 2.2 million foreign tourists came to Thailand to receive some kind of medical treatment, each year. Between 2012 and 2017, the government estimated that this niche market contributed to more than 24 billion USD in revenue for the country.

Going to Asia instead of other western countries is cheaper for the Chinese tourist than seeking medical treatment at home. According to Wang, a local Chinese who received medical treatment in Bangkok, she spent about 1000 USD for her surgery and a total of 2000 USD for the whole stay of 10 days (flight tickets, living fees etc).



South Korea

South Korea is another destination that is becoming more and more popular among Chinese people looking for medical treatment and more specifically cosmetic surgery. In fact, South Korea is well known in this field as being one of the first top countries in terms of cosmetic surgery.

China korea

The Korean Tourism Organisation (KTO) forecasts the arrival of 998,000 medical tourists in 2020. The revenue from this market was of 1,01 trillion WON in 2013 and is expected to reach 3.5 trillion WON in 2020. There are more than 110 South Korean hospital offices in 19 countries including China.


Source: Visit Medical Korea


According to a report from the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, more than 32,000 Chinese people traveled to South Korea to receive medical treatments in 2012, which are about 2 out 10 foreign tourists who came to Korea for these services. In 2014, 266,501 foreign medical tourists came from South Korea, among which 36,224 came for plastic surgery. Finally, if we look at 2014 figures, 3 out of 10 medical tourists are Chinese.


How can your brand join this market?

Hospitals, agents and even translators are needed. The key is getting the attention of potential clients. In China, your brand means nothing without an e-reputation, a Chinese website and an account on Chinese social media. Chinese like to do research and if your brand is not easily accessible, or well known, they will not make use of your services. Here are the top ways we can help you enter the Chinese market:


A quality Chinese website

A quality mandarin version of your website is necessary. Having a mandarin website allows you to optimize your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) for search engines. For a better SEO and faster loading, your website also needs to be hosted on a local server in China (.cn). The site also needs to be optimized for mandarin character searches and should include QR links to your Wechat page.
All sites in China need to be optimized for mobile phones as the vast majority of online users browse on their smartphones. Mobile content can also be optimized for Wechat, China’s largest social network.


Influencing the ranking of your brand

China’s largest search engine is Baidu. It is vital to increase the ranking of your brand on this platform. The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy that works to rank a corporation’s official website in the natural search results over time. This is where the highest quality consumers are found.

Growing your academic reputation and communication in social media platforms

Coverage on China’s top social media platforms is vital for attracting Chinese. There are over 850 million users on Wechat and over 300 million on Weibo.
Chinese people are perhaps the most active social media users in the world with an average use of 50 minutes per day browsing.


If you are looking for more information and a Digital Marketing specialist, don’t hesitate to contact us!



Other articles:

5 trends about Chinese travelers

Chinese tourists marketing strategies 

The medical tourism industry in China 

Services purchased online by Chinese



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