Business / healthcare

Healthcare sparks tourism boom

By Liu Zhihua (China Daily) Updated: 2012-09-24 08:06

Hiroshi Natsukawa flies to Beijing regularly to check the international medical tourism market in China. His company, Brisian Co, a Tokyo-based agency that helps to provide medical treatment in Japan, mostly in Tokyo, was set up early last year.

"China is a big market for us," said the Mandarin-speaking Japanese national.

"There are so many wealthy Chinese, and they have heightened sense of quality of life and care about the quality of medical services," he added.

Originally, the company helped well-off Chinese obtain advanced health checks and treatment for severe illnesses, such as cancer, but it also provided access to cosmetic surgery. Gradually, the company focused more intensively on the cosmetic surgery market.

"We received a lot of calls about cosmetic surgery, far more than about any other treatment, and so we decided to concentrate on that segment of the market," said Hiroshi.

Japan is famous across China for its cosmetic surgery skills and the surgeons are well regulated and supervised, he explained.

Most of the Chinese clients are wealthy, middle-aged women or young models, actresses and actors, he said.

When a potential client calls, the agency explains the trip procedures, costs and possible risks. If a client agrees to the terms and conditions and prepays, the agency makes an appointment with a Japanese institute.

Brisian helps clients to prepare endorsement forms for visas, books hotels and provides interpreters and airport pickups and departures. The company also provides interpreters and a car service for non-medical trips, but at an extra charge.

Clients pay the hospital directly, and the company takes a cut of $2,000 to $3,000 per case.

"The Chinese market is very promising," said Song Minghui, a representative of Hanyi Cosmetic Surgery Network, a medical tourism agency based in Seoul, South Korea, that targets the Chinese market.

The company was opened in October 2009, when the South Korean government issued an amendment to the Medical Service Act, which requires foreigners-oriented medical tourism services agencies to provide guarantee insurance, so that any losses incurred by patients from overseas can be reimbursed.

According to statistics from the South Korean government, an increasing number of Chinese are traveling to South Korea for medical treatment. In 2009, 2,851 underwent cosmetic surgery in South Korea, in 2010 the figure was 4,708, and in 2011 it was 15,531.

"These are just the statistics for Chinese medical tourists coming to South Korea through the legal channels. There are many more that are not recorded," said Song.

(China Daily 09/24/2012 page5)

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