Arab Medical Tourists Spend Big in Korea

      November 04, 2014 12:33

      Chinese tourists spent the most money on medical treatment in Korea last year, but patients from the United Arab Emirates were the biggest individual spenders here.

      Each Chinese medical tourist in Korea spent an average of W1.81 million (US$1=W1,074) compared to W17.71 million for each patient from the UAE.

      Lee Jae-sung at the Korea Tourism Organization said, "We've seen a 50-percent rise in the number of Arab medical tourists, mostly from the UAE."

      Some 1,151 medical tourists from the UAE visited Korea last year, accounting for only 0.5 percent of all medical tourists. But the number increased 236 percent compared to the previous year, while their per-capita spending rose from W12.67 million in 2012 to W17.71 million last year.

      Locals visit the booth of Seoul National University Hospital during a medical fair in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

      One reason is that the UAE government pays for all medical expenses of citizens who travel abroad for treatment, and even covers airfare and accommodation. It pays another US$500 for each additional family member who travels with a patient.

      Gulf Arabs therefore tend to treat the illness, often obesity-related, of one family member as a chance for a big family holiday, and as families tend to be large and their interests limited to shopping, their spending potential is eagerly being tapped into by countries around the world.

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