A Brief History of Medical Tourism and Why Cosmetic Surgery in Thailand is so Popular

Update 16/09/2018


Essentially, the term ‘medical tourism’ relates to the practice of traveling overseas specifically to have a medical procedure performed. It is becoming increasingly common for people to have cosmetic surgery in Thailand while on vacation in this stunning country. There are a number of reasons why medical tourism became popular:

  1. Higher costs of healthcare in the West despite declining standards 
  2. Excessive waiting times for procedures
  3. Ease and affordability of international travel
  4. Improvements in overseas clinics
Ancient History
Believe it or not, medical tourism is actually several thousand years old. Greek pilgrims traveled to the Saronic Gulf in order to be healed. It was a substantial journey at the time as transport was slow and the path to the Gulf could be treacherous. There are accounts of people visiting various health spas in the UK during the 18th century as these places allegedly contained mineral waters which improved the health of those who bathed in them.
Modern day medical tourism can be traced back to the 1980s when health costs rose exponentially in countries like the United States. Americans started traveling to Costa Rica for dental treatments not covered by their insurance. By 1990, Cuba was starting to welcome foreign visitors who sought cheap but good quality healthcare.

Medical Tourism in Thailand
Cosmetic surgery Thailand really took off in the late 20th century when the nation’s economy collapsed. The Thai government saw the rise of medical tourism and invested heavily in clinics with staff and surgeons educated overseas. The most modern technology was purchased and Thailand soon saw its reputation for low-cost, premium quality surgery enhanced.
There are now more than 1,000 clinics that perform cosmetic surgery Thailand, some of which are government backed though there are an impressive number of private clinics as well. Thailand now welcomes medical tourists from more than 190 countries and can boast medical facilities that match those of any other country in the world. 




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