Mon, Mar 20, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Tourism Bureau says health tourism poised to take off

By Hsu Min-jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

When you think of health tourism, countries such as South Korea probably come to mind. But, thanks to its beautiful landscape and advanced medical technology, an increasing number of foreigners are discovering that Taiwan also has plenty of potential as a health tourism destination. According to the Tourism Bureau, at least 40 overseas-based Chinese recently visited Taiwan on health-oriented holidays, which served as a breakthrough in Taiwan's health tourism industry.

The Tourism Bureau said that most health tourists were people of Chinese descent from Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore or the US. According to the bureau, Taiwan holds five main attractions for ethnic Chinese health tourists. First, they are already familiar with Taiwan. Second, they don't face any language barriers. Third, Taiwan's medical costs are relatively cheaper than in the US. Fourth, they have confidence in Taiwan's medical standards. Fifth, they can take the opportunity to visit their relatives in Taiwan.

Health tourism is a relatively recent phenomenon in Taiwan. In the past, few tourists came to Taiwan for healthcare purposes. Realizing its potential, the Tourism Bureau began promoting the health tourism market last year -- a move which has been rewarded with good results.

One innovative Taiwanese travel agency is currently promoting two health tourism programs to attract overseas Chinese from Los Angeles -- one is a cosmetic treatment and beauty package, and the other is a preventive health and medical checkup package. Both packages last for four days and three nights, with the former costing US$899 and the latter US$1,199, including accommodation and roundtrip, direct flight tickets from Los Angeles to Kaohsiung or Taoyuan.

As part of the packages, the Kaohsiung Municipal United Hospital offers health tourists medical services and various cosmetic treatments, while the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital's Linkou Branch in Taoyuan provides comprehensive medical checkups worth US$463.

In future, travel agencies hope to widen the health tourism market by attracting a wide array of people rather than only ethnic Chinese. Also, the government is considering whether to make invasive healthcare treatments available to overseas tourists in order to further promote Taiwan's health-tourism industry.

The Cabinet's Tourism Development and Promotion Committee will formulate a health tourism promotion plan by meeting with relevant government officials and local tourists operators by the end of this month in the hope of attracting more tourists to Taiwan and creating more employment opportunities.

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