This holiday season, are you jet-setting for plastic surgery?
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), more than 12 billion dollars were spent on cosmetic surgery. That indicates a 12% overall increase in both surgical and nonsurgical procedures last year alone .
Of that total, women spent more more than 10.3 million on cosmetic procedures (90.6%) while men had more than 1 million (9.4% of the total) .
Harvard law professor Glenn Cohen author of “Patients with Passports: Medical Tourism, Law, and Ethics” and “The Globalization of Health Care”, correlates the significant increase in the number of cosmetic procedures to the popularity of overseas destinations for plastic surgery patients.
According to Cohen, medical tourism has grown significantly in the last 10 to 15 years, especially in developing countries . Furthermore, the explosive growth of international patients seeking elective cosmetic procedures overseas has lead to the thriving cosmetic/plastic surgery clinics around the world.
Thailand is leading the world as a medical tourism destination. Last year, 26.5 million people visited Thailand and came purely for medical reasons – earning the country a staggering $4.31 billion in revenue from the industry .
The reason: With the current tough economy, patients are crossing borders for lower-cost surgical packages than those in the United States. The second important factor is the exceptionally high level of expertise available in some international centers.
Foreigners looking for cosmetic plastic surgery treatments are flocking to Bangkok in record numbers for a snip here, a tuck there and for more aesthetic procedures like boob jobs (breast augmentation), nose jobs (rhinoplasty), face-lifts, augmentations or liposuction.
Costa Rica also has its fair share of plastic surgery destinations. In San José, the capital of Costa Rica, dental and cosmetic surgery clinics abound. High-quality doctors and dentists, many of whom were trained in the U.S. and are fluent in English offer procedures that are 40-70 percent cheaper than in the U.S.
In addition, fights from the U.S. or Canada to San José typically run around $400-$700. A mid-range hotel for two people will cost around $115–$140 a night .
But if you don’t mind a bit of traveling, head to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
With 4,500 specialists nipping and tucking in a population of roughly 192 million, the country has the most plastic surgeons per capita and is acknowledged as the “World Capital of Plastic Surgery” .
In a survey conducted by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ISAPS), approximately 1.5 million cosmetic surgeries were carried out in Brazil last year. That’s 13 percent of all the elective plastic surgeries done all over the world in 2013.
And although it is not the cheapest place in the world to receive cosmetic surgery, Brazil is known for its sun-kissed beaches, scores of scantily clad beautiful people and top-notch surgical safety.
Conversely, if you’re looking at opportunities to combine surgery and luxury at a lower-cost, get yourself to Gangnam District – Seoul, Korea’s luxurious “beauty belt”.
Gangnam is teeming with hundreds of plastic surgery clinics and is home to perhaps the world’s most renowned plastic surgeons. Roughly 7.5 million people flock to Gangnam District for plastic surgeons who can emulate the doll-like features of K-Pop girls and famous Holywood stars.
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Figures from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons revealed that 20% percent of Korean women between 19 to 49 years old have had at least one cosmetic surgery in their life . To Koreans, beauty is something that is attainable through hard work — just like anything else in life.
Similarly, cosmetic procedures are often regarded as normal in Venezuela. The country is believed to have one of the world’s highest rates of plastic surgery. In 2013, Venezuelan doctors performed 85,000 implant operations according to the International Society of Plastic Surgeons .
Another famed plastic surgery destination in Asia is Singapore – the second best in the world for healthcare outcomes according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The research arm of the Economist Group reports that Singapore spent a hefty US$2,538 (S$3,290) per capita on health care .
Finally, it’s not just Asia that boasts the largest number of hubs for cosmetic tourism, following its league is Turkey. Figures from Patients Beyond Borders, a U.S. group that collects data on the industry, revealed that 110,000 medical tourists travelled to the country in 2013. In line with this, tourism income in Turkey increased by 7.9 percent in the second quarter of 2014 according to the Turkish Statistical Institute .
Planning Your Trip
If you’re convinced that you need to travel abroad to get that aesthetic fix, plan in advance. Ask your doctor, hospital, or medical travel agent for a post-surgical package or recovery accommodation. Some clinics and hotels provide package deals, which save their clients time, money, and anxiety. Several hospitals abroad also offer free transportation to and from airports; low-cost meal plans for companions, and affiliations with hotels and recuperation resorts.