María Teresa Solís Trejo, Former Undersecretary for Planning and Tourism Policy, and Carlos Pantoja, Partner, Deloitte
Medical tourism in Mexico is set to quadruple, if the ongoing boom can be leveraged further
In this Global Platform video, María Teresa Solís Trejo, Former Undersecretary for Planning and Tourism Policy, and Carlos Pantoja, Partner, Deloitte discuss the considerable advantages that Mexico has to offer to medical tourists. Thanks to a combination of competitive prices and high-quality services, in 2017 medical tourism generated $3.5bn in income. This number could increase four-fold by 2030 if the right initiatives are put in place and private sector involvement expands. In addition to more conventional medical services, young people today come to Mexico looking for wellness-orientated services – another space that could yield significant returns going forward.
International tourism to Mexico has been increasing consistently in recent years, reaching double-digit figures and positioning Mexico in sixth place internationally.
As for medical tourism, it has grown organically – that is, without the existence of integrated national strategies to attract this type of tourism. It is estimated that 1.5m international medical tourists came to our country in 2017. Economically speaking, medical tourism alone represented an income of $3.5bn in 2017, and we estimate that, with the right strategies, this could quadruple by 2030, to reach $13.8bn.
In recent decades Mexico has been able to develop a considerable private health care industry which adheres to international standards, provides a high-quality service and also creates opportunities, not only for young professionals in the medical field but also for entrepreneurs, investors and even investment funds, who have not yet fully recognised the opportunity that medical tourism represents in Mexico.
Geographically, medical tourism has developed in the border zone, of course, being part of the bilateral economic flows [with the US]. But it also has developed in coastal centres, on the Pacific coast and the Yucatan Peninsula, and also in some destinations in the country’s interior, particularly the Bajío area and the state of Guanajuato. However, if we think about the strength of Mexico’s medical clusters, the medical industry and medical expertise, the leading medical clusters are located, of course, in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey.
There is a vast diversity in treatments that tourists look for in Mexico. Some are treatments not regularly covered by insurance policies, such as dental treatments, some ophthalmological treatments and also plastic or bariatric surgery. But we have also found that some tourists come to Mexico in order to have highly specialised treatments, such as orthopaedic treatments or cardiovascular surgeries, where they make considerable savings.
Global trends show that today young people, millennials, are looking for much greater access to experiences. And these experiences can be found in wellness tourism. They look for wellbeing, yoga, hiking, some types of spiritual tourism, relaxation, preemptive health care, they look for treatments that help them to lose weight.
In addition, nowadays, these are high-value services, but there is not a high level of demand. At present there is no support as such for the investments that are being established in Mexico. But there is a rising demand and that is enough incentive to motivate the private sector to evaluate the possibility of investing in this particular industry.
The cost of surgical treatments in Mexico can be 10 times less than in the US. And that factor is unlikely to disappear in the short term.
The possibility of being certified in processes, reports, studies, tests and clinical-medical tracking is very relevant. Therefore, following international rules, and having in place all of the systems and methods to do so, is essential if you want to be in this industry, offering high-value services.
Business people thus face a significant challenge: to professionalise their services, to create clusters with other partners, to offer high-quality aftercare, to be able to attend patients in different languages, timely attention.
In the end, patients arriving in Mexico are looking for an integrated experience. And that experience is based on three factors. First, the professionalism with which their case was treated. Second, the friendliness of the service, and here the Mexican experience is very relevant, precisely because of our tourism offering. And third, the competitive cost, that invariably in Mexico is much more representative than in other places.
We believe this is what makes this sector of strategic relevance in Mexico.