Future Health Tourism Growth will be Driven by Chinese and Russian Travelers

In 2012, the top five countries in terms of number of international departures were Germany, the US, the UK, China and Russia.  By 2017, China will lead with Germany in second place and Russia in third. Therefore, cities which appeal to Chinese and Russian travelers will experience stronger growth, especially those in neighboring countries.

In particular, Thailand is well positioned to benefit from the strong growth of both Chinese and Russian travelers thanks to its proximity, shopping and attractions, more so for Bangkok than other destinations which can be reached directly. In the long term, nevertheless, Euromonitor International expects that Bangkok will cement its position as the third most visited city, while Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai will continue their ascent in the rankings.

Countries which relax or streamline visa processes, develop strong relationships with tour operators, offer medical treatments that cannot be obtained easily in China, or who implement targeted marketing and expand airlift will increase travelers, which will benefit their medical tourism destinations. Many countries have embraced the move to better visa processes or exemptions to woo these visitors. For example, on 1 January 2014, South Korea allowed Russians to travel to the country for 60 days without a visa.

It is these actions that mature city destinations need to pursue. Paris has done well courting emerging market travelers, with 320,000 Russians and 204,000 Chinese visitors in 2012, up 7.5% and 16.1%, respectively. For Russians, Italy, Germany and Spain are increasingly on their radar so it is imperative that cities there embrace these tourists.  Turkey and Greece have been enjoying visitors from Russia and CIS states for several years because they are culturally aligned with thermal spas and similar gastronomy offerings and affordable prices.

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