Medical Tourism Economic Report: Latin America versus Asia

by David G. Vequist, Erika Valdez and Billy Morrison ,  Medical Tourism Magazine | 2009-06-01

Two regions that have been impacted greatly by the industry of medical tourism are Latin America and Asia.  Both these regions have their share of developing economies and low priced healthcare options.  In addition, both have strong tourism industries and best-in-class healthcare providers.  In the following report, we will explore some of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the two regions and compare and contrast their potential.

Latin America
This region has many economic opportunities in the future including a growing interest and momentum in the medical tourism industry.  Although, not as advanced as a region in medical tourism as are several countries in Asia, Latin America has many advantages that it can grow on, which include: having a close proximity to North America, low cost of labor (particularly compared to North America), many ‘western’ trained and English speaking healthcare practitioners, a culture that many Europeans and North Americans find familiar, limited medical malpractice costs, beautiful locations including world-class beaches and hotels, and a friendly and caring culture.  Countries in Latin America that are focused on medical tourism are: Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, Colombia, Chile, and El Salvador (to name just a few of the major players). 

The economic numbers for Latin America are not as easy to find as forecasts are for the Asian region and countries.  However, Jonathan Edelheit, president of the Medical Tourism Association (MTA) stated in an April 2009 article that by 2017 up to 23 million Americans could be traveling overseas spending up to $79.5 billion per year, and over 50% of that business could be headed to Latin America.  Several hospitals and healthcare clusters in Latin America have become international destinations and could continue to grow their market share.  There is also a growing awareness of the need of governmental support (if not investment) in Latin America that will only help this industry.  Finally, a huge advantage is the number of North Americans that are planning to retire abroad and the core competence in dental care in many Latin American countries.

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