Mainland rich go to Taiwan for checkups
Updated: 2013-09-01 22:45
By Shan Juan (China Daily)
Taiwan is luring well-off tourists from the mainland with quality health examinations and management packages.
Ever since Taiwan authorities launched a 15-day health/medical tourism permit for mainlanders last year, more than 30,000 people have traveled under the initiative, mainly for high-end physical checkups, cosmetic surgery or anti-aging therapies, according to the Taiwan External Trade Development Council.
The policy, issued last year, was aimed at broadening the island's health tourism market by attracting more customers from the mainland.
Currently, residents of 26 major cities on the mainland can travel to the island on an individual basis, while medical tourists can be from anywhere.
Hung Tzu-Jen, general manager of the Shin Kong Medical Club of Taiwan, one of the 39 authorized medical institutions to receive such tourists, said on Friday that it has received about 3,000 since the new rule was implemented.
Most were rich male entrepreneurs aged 45 to 55 from Jiangsu, Hebei and Fujian provinces, he said.
The hospital focuses on early screenings for cancer and cardiovascular diseases, which have become top killers across the country.
According to Hung, each customer spends 7,500 yuan ($1,230) on average for packages based on individual situations and needs.
Apart from advanced equipment, "quality services, a custom-oriented approach, the highlighting of preventive care and health management, as well as promotion are the real competitive advantages," he said.
One of their customers from Jiangsu said that instead of a medicine odor, the hospital gave off a pleasant coffee smell.
Another customer, surnamed Liu, who went to the hospital for a health checkup package for women, said the jelly the B-scan doctor applied on her belly was warm, an unexpected and human-oriented service, as on the mainland the jelly is usually cold and feels uncomfortable.
The package, mainly about early breast cancer screening, costs about 5,400 yuan, she said.
Despite the rising trend, health checkup tourists from the mainland account for only 5 percent of the total at the center, Hung said.
"There must be a major increase in the future," he said.
International studies showed that usually about 3 percent of a developing country's rich population considers international health tourism, Hung said.
"That figure should be at least 60 million in the case of mainland, which might be our potential clients," he said.
He urged Taiwan authorities to boost the efforts by actively promoting the "Taiwan healthcare" brand.
Many countries and regions worldwide have begun to eye the health tourism market, he said.
"The competition is actually among countries and regions rather than just healthcare providers," Hung said.
In Singapore, for instance, the government invests $100 million every year to promote its local healthcare brands internationally.
Films and TV shows in South Korea have even included scenes about healthcare and plastic surgery.
"Taiwan should learn from them and become a top destination for healthcare tourists from the mainland," he expected, adding that Taiwan strikes a good balance of quality and affordability.
But for the super-rich in metropolises such as Beijing and Shanghai, "They are eyeing the best of the best, like Europe and the US," he said.