Medical travel: the latest trends and hotspots revealed

As we emerge from the pandemic, medical travel is slowly recovering. From IVF and cosmetic and plastic surgery to dentistry, orthopedic surgery, cardiac surgery, oncology and organ transplantation, patients worldwide are once again expanding their healthcare horizons.

Recent reports have highlighted that the global medical tourism market is expected to reach US$54,201.88 million by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.23 percent between 2022 and 2027.

There are several reasons people are looking across borders for treatment options. Research shows that nearly 56 percent of patients want better treatment, while 22 percent want to pay less. In addition, 18 percent of patients are looking for treatment options that are not available in their home countries, and 10 percent want treatment as quickly as possible without waiting. Additionally, as the global burden of disease continues to increase, patients are seeking improved personalized wellness programs that focus on medical wellness tourism.

Medical Travel Hotspots

Several countries have shown promising growth in recent years, partly due to their stunning landscapes. Canada ranks first in the 2020-2021 Medical Tourism Index thanks to its tranquil environment and world-class medical services. But some other countries also shape the industry. Below we dive deeper into some of the most in-demand medical destinations.


According to reports, the number of foreign patients in India is growing at an average annual rate of 25 percent. One of the main reasons for its popularity is that treatment costs here are lower than in other developed countries and waiting times are non-existent. Many of the country’s private establishments are certified by the Joint Commission International (JCI), underscoring strict international standards. Some of the most popular treatments people visit India for include bone marrow transplants, bariatric and obesity surgeries, eye surgeries, heart surgeries, cancer treatments, gynecological issues, and hip transplants and replacement surgeries. In addition, people can opt for alternative medicine such as Ayurveda and naturopathy for a more holistic recovery.

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The Land of the Rising Sun ranks third in the Medical Tourism Index. In 2018, 31.19 million international tourists visited the country for medical procedures. On the one hand, the country’s health facilities are equipped with the latest medical technology; On the other hand, it has several great tourist attractions that make it a must-see. However, it is important to emphasize that medical procedures here are often quite expensive. The reason why Japan is so high on the list is due to its advanced medical facilities and higher standard of care.


According to the Medical Tourism Index, Singapore ranks second among the top 46 travel destinations. The country reportedly receives around 500,000 visitors annually and is known for its cardiology, hematology, oncology, neurology, stem cell therapy and orthopedic treatments. It is considered one of the safest cities to receive state-of-the-art medical care and has one of the highest numbers of JCI-accredited hospitals. Reports have found that treatments like heart bypass surgeries would cost between $16,000 and $25,000 here, compared to the United States, where they cost a whopping $123,000. In this way, patients can save around 25 to 40 percent of the treatment costs.


The country is reported to have the highest score for organ transplants, with a donor rate of 36 donors per million population. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Spain as the seventh best health destination in Europe. It has been reported that patients can save between 30 and 70 percent in costs compared to the US, UK and Canada. Also, as one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, Spain is an ideal getaway for those who want to explore the country’s rich culture while undergoing treatments such as orthopedic surgery, dentistry, cosmetic surgery, eye surgery and obesity surgery.

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As an established tourism destination, more than nine percent of Thailand’s GDP is attributed to medical tourism. It is estimated that over three million people visit Thailand each year to avail of the country’s medical facilities. Treatments here cost 50 to 80 percent less than in the West. Patients from the United States, Middle East, Vietnam and Laos make up a large proportion of those seeking LASIK, cosmetic surgeries such as anti-aging treatments and IVF. The country is also known for its hospitality and has a highly qualified medical staff, mostly trained in Europe. Even with some of the most complex and multi-step treatments and surgeries, patients rarely have to wait in long lines. Its beautiful beaches and rejuvenating natural landscapes are other reasons why Thailand continues to be a preferred medical destination.


Turkey is considered a popular medical destination and is known for hair transplants, cosmetic surgeries, oncology and IVF treatments, among others. The country offers affordable procedures, quality care and access to world-class medical care. Medical procedures in the country reportedly cost 70 percent less than in the US. The staff of most healthcare facilities are well trained and certified by the board. Another benefit of getting treatment in Turkey is that it offers visa-free travel to over 70 countries.

United Arab Emirates

In recent years, the UAE has emerged as a burgeoning destination for medical travel. In 2021, the country welcomed over 630,000 medical tourists. This growth is due to recent advances in medical coverage and the ease with which visitors can book medical treatments and take advantage of discounted airfares, visas, health insurance, hotel stays, leisure activities and more. The country has become a medical travel hub thanks to its proximity to Europe and the Middle East. Compared to the USA and Great Britain, patients here can save between 30 and 40 percent of the costs for the same procedures. The country’s medical travel market is reportedly expected to grow to AED 19 billion this year. Some of the most commonly performed procedures here include gynecologic surgeries, liposuction, rhinoplasty, micro-needling, botox, and bariatric surgery, among others.

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The way forward

The global medical travel industry is developing rapidly, and patient behavior and preferences are making the market more dynamic. The good news is that with most travel restrictions lifted, people are looking to improved treatment options. In the coming years, new destinations with more interesting offers and more value will emerge, and cutting-edge technology will drive innovation in products and services and improve patient outcomes.

dr  Raza Siddiqui.jpeg

dr Raza Siddiqui is CEO of Arabian Healthcare Group.


This article will appear in the Daily Dose 2023. Read the full issue online today.


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