TAIPEI, Taiwan – The Department of Health is working with the health care industry to draw Chinese nationals to Taiwan for medical tourism, but stiff competition and cumbersome local restrictions are holding the sector back, officials said Friday.
Speaking at a forum on medical tourism in Taipei, Shih Chung-liang, the director-general of DOH’s Bureau of Medical Affairs, said the government has partnered with health care providers to offer health care tours to attract Chinese visitors.
The focus, Shih said, has been on personalized service that includes health checkups, plastic surgery, and treatment for serious diseases, but he acknowledged Taiwan is facing stiff competition from countries such as India, Singapore and Thailand.
“Taiwan started off relatively late in medical tourism,” he said. “We are working to catch up with our competitors through high quality services.”
Shih said a new program allowing Chinese nationals to visit Taiwan on their own rather than in tour groups could be a boon to medical tourism. He cited a local travel agency as saying one in 10 of their customers under the program have come to Taiwan for medical purposes.
But fully exploiting the opportunity will still require easing certain restrictions, argued Chao Yuen-chuan, the president of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA).
He urged the government to revise medical visa screening laws and paperwork requirements, especially for Chinese nationals, so international tourists can come to Taiwan more easily.
“A simplified document processing system is crucial, especially if we want to reach the Chinese market,” he said.
Chao estimated that medical tourism could help generate US$4.4 billion a year in revenues for Taiwan in the future, though he did not say by when.