Lonely Planet says that wellness tourism makes up the travel industry’s fastest growing sector, at $500bn up 10% this year, and within this the specialist medical segment is growing even more faster, up 20% annually and worth up to $72bn.
The largest market is in the US, followed by Germany and China has been seeing annual growth from $12bn to $30bn. The majority of wellness trips are domestic at 83%, but international wellness travel has been growing at a faster rate. In the UK, where NHS waiting times are at their highest in a decade, healthcare trips have risen to almost 144,000 with a reported 200% rise in queries about orthopaedic treatment.
Internationally, the biggest services include dental care, elective surgery, fertility treatment and cosmetic surgery, and Dubai alone aims to attract half a million a year by 2020. Patients Beyond Borders believes the worldwide medical tourism market is growing 15-25% per year, with around 14 million patients crossing borders globally annually, spending an average of $3,800-6,000 per visit, and saving US patients the most if they travel to India, Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey.