The city of Ruzhou in Henan province is seeking to build a medical tourism resort. The Boyi Group from Taiwan plans a cross-straits Ruzhou hot spring medical tourism resort that will be the first of its kind in the world. By combining the advanced medical services system in Taiwan with the natural and cultural resources in Ruzhou, the resort aims to attract visitors who want to restore their health.

Phase one construction covers an area of 133 hectares, with an investment of $860 million. It will provide four kinds of themed packages: hot spring recreation, health checks and cosmetic surgery, 9D cinema experiences and Chinese culture seminars. The 400-hectare resort is expected to be completed within three years.

The Boao Lecheng International Medical Travel Zone, a special zone for overseas medical institutions in Hainan, will begin construction within 3 months after preliminary plans have been completed. Upon completion the health centre in Lecheng will be equipped with high-end medical equipment, providing the most advanced cancer treatment and anti-aging services. The project, which covers a land area of 20.14 square kilometers, is expected to be completed and put into use within 2 years. Project developers Hainan Boao Lecheng Development Holdings has established a long-term cooperative relationship with the London Zero Carbon Pavilion, Tsinghua University, and Tongji University.

Qixiangling Rain Forest Hot Spring Resort plans to work with local hotels, golf clubs and tourism enterprises to build a local tourism brand. With abundant rainforest resources, fresh air and clear water, Qixiangling plans to build itself into a brand health care tourism destination.

As the first international brand hotel in Qixiangling, the Hilton Hotel Qixiangling has plans to transform the hotel into a healthcare resort, which is expected to open for business by the end of the year.

The establishment of the alliance of local resorts means that advertisements will be displayed at airports and bus stations to boost the brand image of Qixiangling healthcare tourism.

The medium- and long-term plans for Qixiangliing health care tourism are also to be decided in the near future.

Many medical professionals believe that China can be competitive globally, given its low healthcare prices. Shanghai was among the first places in China to get serious about medical tourism. In June 2010, the Shanghai Medical Tourism Products and Promotion Platform was established with the support of local government agencies including health and tourism bureaus. The platform was soon able to bring together over 20 participating hospitals in the metropolis, handling patient inquiries online, helping contact hospitals that can offer the right treatment, and even arranging the entire trip. The company that runs the site says it gets 100 inquiries a month, but is much vaguer on numbers who actually go to China for treatment.

Shanghai East Hospital treats 50,000 foreign patients a year, but most of these are expatriates working in the city or travellers, so this doesn’t give an accurate idea of how many people have travelled to China for treatment.

Hainan Province plans to build a special zone for medical tourism, the first in the country. Sanya Hospital in Sanya, Hainan Province, has been promoting Chinese therapies such as acupuncture, massage and cupping therapy to attract tourists. The hospital gets around 2000 overseas customers year, mainly from Russia and Central Asia, and it now has a travel agency to help expand its medical tourism business.

Chinese hospitals may be cheap, but apart from a few targeted at international patients, most struggle badly on aspects such as international patient communication and management, patient safety and security, partnerships and value of service. China is undergoing healthcare reform and one of its primary goals is to strengthen the non-profit status of public hospitals. The local debate is whether or not medical tourism, as a relatively high-end form of healthcare, might take away resources needed for the basic healthcare of the Chinese population.

Government regulations now allow public hospitals to set aside 10 % of their medical resources to VIP services for local and international patients, which could be used to develop medical tourism.

Another uncertainty is the Chinese government’s commitment to developing medical tourism, as building the industry to be truly internationally competitive would involve cooperation between a number of government agencies including health, tourism and immigration. There are no signs that this is going to happen in the immediate future.
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