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CHINA, TAIWAN: China and Taiwan seek to make most of medical tourism

Shanghai is expected to attract 50,000 to 100,000 foreign patients in the next three years, each spending an average of $10,000 to $15,000 per trip, says Dr Yang Jian, of China Medical Tourism Company, "We aim to turn Shanghai into Asia's leading medical destination for advanced patient care."

Shanghai will promote medical tourism this year by increasing overseas marketing. It also has a medical tourism products and promotion agency, Shanghai Medical Tourism Products & Promotion Platform (SHMTPPP) which is jointly supported by five municipal bureaus to offer a link between patients and Shanghai hospitals. Fierce competition in the market means Shanghai will focus on its specialties, namely gamma knife therapy, traditional Chinese medicine and stem cell technology. Every year, more than 300 Argentineans come to Shanghai for gamma knife surgery, which is banned in some countries.

For some local companies, selling medical travel packages to growing numbers of Chinese customers wishing to receive treatment abroad is already big business. Now, Chinese firms want to promote their own facilities at home to growing numbers of foreign medical tourists. Medical tourism promoters Ciming Health Check Group and its partner, the China Medical Tourism Company, can no longer afford to ignore China as a medical tourism destination.

China's major urban centers of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have already attracted growing numbers of medical tourists due to advanced technology, high quality of service, and affordable prices. Despite the ever-increasing quality of China's medical facilities, lack of awareness as well as language and cultural barriers remain a challenge to attracting more patients.

Taiwan's medical resources are on par with those found in Europe and the U.S., but it lags behind leading regional medical tourism destinations. 85,000 medical tourists visited the country last year for treatment. Taiwan has been seeking to expand its presence in this industry since 2004, but lack of funding meant that large-scale overseas promotion of the nation’s medical tourism facilities did not begin until 2007. The launch of direct cross-strait flights, along with the opening of Taiwan to more mainland Chinese tourists, has seen more visitors keen on cheap travel costs and a similar language and culture.

Although only 15,000 mainland Chinese will travel to Taiwan as medical tourists in 2012, the government believes this number is set to eventually hit 75,000, or 5 % of total visitor numbers. Taiwan attracts the new middle-class of Mainland Chinese looking for treatment overseas.

The Taiwan government plans to develop special international medical zones. It is currently seeking some private investment for the planned project at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport that has a target of 40,000 medical tourists. Taiwan has at least three other such zones in the pipeline. But for these to go head to head with international competitors, the government must amend or at least liberalize the Medical Care Act under which hospitals and healthcare centers are banned from advertising for patients. It also needs to review laws covering the employment of foreign doctors.

Source IMTJ