China’s one-child reversal policy and its insufficient fertility treatment facilities may boost Thailand’s medical tourism market. According to the market research firm IBIS World, this inadequacy of China can take Thailand to the top in the global reproductive health market almost similar to the US.
China’s one-child policy since 1979 had affected the population growth. Stringent regulations in IVF treatments have further restricted the intending couples suffering from infertility issues in expanding the country’s population.
The abolishment of one-child policy has all of a sudden created a surge in the demand for IVF treatments among the Chinese but the available facilities are very much limited. The intending couples either have to wait in the long queue or look for options in the nearest low-cost destinations.
What can be a better choice other than Thailand maintaining a robust medical infrastructure offering cutting-edge fertility treatments? The country also ranks very high in global medical tourism index.
Chinese women are flying to Thailand, Malaysia and US seeking fertility treatments, reports the CEO of Bangkok-based healthcare consultancy company Medical Departures.
Thailand’s opportunities in the estimated $16 billion market:
This seems to be a reliable estimation as older well-heeled couples would look for beyond the border treatment options for the second child. The potential market for IVF treatments in China has touched almost 90 million couples post the abolishment of China’s one-child policy.
Expenses for IVF treatments and other allied services are always on the higher side amounting to millions of Bahts and are affordable by the upper and upper-middle class people. This includes the additional expenses incurred due to the long duration stays in a foreign land.
Therefore, the question remains are the wealthy Chinese people eager to shell out the expenses for a second child? In spite of the abolishment of one-child policy in 2015, the birth-rate in China did not see the expected rise.
The 30 decade long one-child policy had a serious impact on the demographics and attitude of the Chinese who may be reluctant to opt for a second issue considering the huge investment of time and money.
But apart from this, the infertility problem plaguing the country since two decades offers another big opportunity for the Thai medical tourism market to capitalize. An estimated 45 million Chinese suffered from fertility related problems reported by the country’s National Health and Planning Commission.
The legal implications regarding pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and gender selection in China also restricts Chinese women to make their choice of fertility solutions. Egg-freezing is a popular option among young Chinese women seeking to postpone motherhood. This is banned in China for unmarried women but remains a feasible option abroad.
The Chinese culture is inclined to extending the blood lineage. The growing acceptance of fertility treatments further enhances the potential of the Chinese market in beyond the border fertility tourism.
From Thailand’s medical tourism perspective, the situation is tilted in its favor. Geographical proximity and low-cost living standard make this country a favorable choice for Chinese couples.
Revenue from secondary activities:
The estimated $16 billion opportunity for Thailand’s medical tourism is likely to expand beyond that. The wealthy Chinese are big spenders in the travel market. Apart from the revenue generated from the 3-8 week long duration fertility treatments, the wealthy Chinese couples are likely to spend on top class accommodations, high-quality food and other activities to be in the pink of health, which is essential to produce quality eggs. This additional revenue would contribute substantially to the thriving health tourism market.
In Thailand, the cost of IVF treatment ranges from 48,000 -80,000 Yuan and in China, it is 16,500-43,500 Yuan averaging to 30,000 Yuan. While China remains favorable in terms of cost, this is not always the decisive factor when compared to the expertise and success rate of IVF treatments in Thailand.
Success rates in fertility treatments:
Reports say that success rate in IVF treatments in Thailand is 10% higher than that of China and this could be much higher in young women aged between 25 and 28. IVF techniques carried out in Thailand are government supervised as stated by the bureau director of the Thailand Ministry of Public Health.
Thailand faces less competition from the neighboring medical tourism destinations like Korea and Japan due to the lack of robust fertility treatment infrastructure. This is mainly because the local demand for IVF treatments in these destinations is comparatively less.
Given the golden opportunity to tap the high-value Chinese infertility market, the question arises whether Thailand is ready to handle the huge volume of Chinese patients along with those from other destinations. Currently, Thailand’s capacity can serve 1 million couples.
It is therefore almost certain that more clinics need to be set up in case of high demand but getting the required number of additional fertility treatment specialists and professionals may be a daunting task. According to a private hospital specialist, it takes at least 5-10 years to train professionals for high-precision treatments like IVF. Thailand needs to upgrade its existing facilities and quality of service to maintain its leading position in medical tourism.