Why Medical Tourism Is Drawing Patients, Even in a Pandemic

“Our market has always been what I call the ‘working poor’ and they just keep getting poorer,” said Josef Woodman, the chief executive of Patients Without Borders. “The pandemic has gutted low-income and middle-class people around the world and for many of them the reality is that they have to travel to access affordable health care.”

In April, following the initial global lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, medical travel bookings were down by more than 89 percent in the most popular destinations, including Mexico, Thailand, Turkey and South Korea, according to Medical Departures, a Bangkok-based medical travel agency. Since August, the numbers have slowly been rebounding, but bookings in Mexico, which has seen an uptick in American travelers in recent months, are still down by 32 percent compared to the same period of August to December in 2019.

“Covid-19 has devastated the whole medical tourism ecosystem because of all the uncertainty over travel restrictions and quarantine measures that keep changing across the world,” said Paul McTaggart, the founder of the agency.

“Despite this, we are still seeing a growing number of people traveling and booking trips to address their urgent health needs, especially between the U.S. and