A Closer Look at Medical Tourism in Latin America

By Guillaume Corpart

With the high prices of medical treatments in the U.S. showing no signs of abatement, medical tourism in Latin American countries continues to be a growing trend. While it’s hardly a new trend, medical tourism has been growing steadily over the past couple of decades, with the exception of a dip during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Annual medical tourists (worldwide): 14 million

Money spent globally on medical tourism (2021): $55-$75 billion

Medical Tourism in Mexico

Not surprisingly, the bulk of medical tourists in the country of Mexico are traveling from the United States. Some estimates put the total number of medical tourists to Mexico at between 1.4 to 3 million annually, with 40%-60% of those people coming from the U.S.

Before the pandemic, the number of U.S. medical tourists in Mexico averaged 1.2 million per year. In 2024, we’re seeing numbers rise again toward their pre-pandemic levels. Naturally, medical tourism has grown to become a major factor in the Mexican healthcare industry as a result.

  • 2006 Mexico medical tourism revenue: $1.5 billion
  • 2016 Mexico medical tourism revenue: $4.8 billion
  • 2021 Mexico medical tourism revenue (estimated): $6.75 billion

Big Savings for Tourists

Of course, there’s a reason so many Americans are interested in heading south of the border for health care treatments, and that’s the cost. Cost analysis has shown that Americans save on average between 40 to 60 percent in Mexico on common medical procedures. Some sources put the savings for Americans at even higher levels.

The most common reasons that Americans travel to Mexico are for cosmetic or dental procedures, but there are other reasons, as well. Orthopedic work, such as on the knees or hips, is also high on the list, as is simply getting prescription drugs at a more reasonable price.

  • Cost savings on bariatric surgery in Mexico (compared to U.S.): 80%
  • Cost savings on cosmetic surgery in Mexico (compared to U.S.): 75%
  • Cost savings on dental procedures in Mexico (compared to U.S.): 70%

The close proximity to the U.S. is yet another reason that Mexico is a popular destination for U.S. medical tourists. As the health care professionals, facilities and procedures in Mexico have continued to improve over the years, it has understandably led to more interest from cost-conscious Americans.

Finally, Mexico is an appealing destination for American travelers for reasons beyond medical treatments. If a medical procedure only requires a short recovery afterward, for example, it offers ample time for leisure tourism in the region, such as exploring the culture, enjoying fine dining, relaxing at the beach and more.




Identify the most common procedures at LatAm hospitals to target your sales


Medical Tourism in Brazil

Another Latin American market with a high medical tourism rate is Brazil. Brazil ranks second in the number of cosmetic procedures performed in the entire world, falling only behind the United States in the rankings. Of all the cosmetic procedures performed in Brazil, almost 7 percent are on international patients.

While most of Mexico’s international tourists are coming from the United States, Brazil is a popular destination for residents from other South American countries. In 2019, it was estimated that Brazil welcomed in around 250,000 patients from other countries. Cosmetic surgery, dental care and bariatric surgery were the most common procedures.

Similar to what was seen in Mexico, medical tourism understandably dropped in Brazil during the pandemic. But now we are seeing renewed interest and rising levels of medical tourists once again.

The Appeal of Brazil

Lower prices for common procedures is always a determining factor for medical tourists seeking treatment abroad. But in the case of Brazil, their medical tourism market may be growing for different reasons, as well: High quality and innovation.

When it comes to cosmetic surgery, Brazil has an almost unmatched reputation for excellence. They also offer certain procedures and techniques that are difficult to find elsewhere, especially in the areas of sexual realization, reproduction management and female health. Along with lower prices, these are driving factors that are fueling Brazil’s growing medical tourism industry.

Overall, tourism as a whole in Brazil is growing. Recent projections from 2023 indicated that tourists spent $6.9 billion in the country last year, surpassing Brazil’s record from 2014, the year they hosted the World Cup. Medical tourism is certainly a contributing factor in these growing numbers. Brazil offers plenty of leisure tourism opportunities for its medical travelers, as well, from fine dining to sporting events to its world-famous beaches.

  • Annual medical tourists in Brazil (2019): 250,000
  • Brazil’s medical tourism industry ranking: 21 out of 46 destinations
  • Brazil’s quality of facilities and services ranking: 21 out of 46 destinations

How to React to Medical Tourism in Latin America

There’s no question that medical tourism is big business in Mexico and Brazil, but also in several other Latin American countries, as well. If you’re a supplier of medical equipment or pharmaceuticals in these markets, you may find ample opportunities, as medical tourism is only projected to grow.

Several factors are fueling the rise of medical tourism in Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere. For one, the cost of treatments and procedures in the United States and other nations continues to rise, and medical tourists are looking for opportunities to save money. Also, the quality of care in Latin America continues to improve, making these destinations more appealing. People are increasingly becoming more comfortable with travel as we get further away from the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021.

Put all these factors together, and medical tourism should only continue to increase in the years ahead. For suppliers, particularly in the cosmetic, bariatric, dental, orthopedic or pharmaceutical fields, major opportunities exist related to medical tourism in 2024 and beyond.

That being said, it’s also wise to approach medical tourism with an air of caution when it comes to certain medical specialties and treatments. Some medical breakthroughs, such as the weight loss drug Ozempic, may reduce the number of bariatric surgeries or obesity-related plastic surgeries worldwide in the coming years. Some estimates say that obesity could be nearly eradicated within a decade due to the widespread use of Ozempic and similar drugs.

Next Steps

Contact GHI to learn more about healthcare trends and their potential impact on the medical device and equipment industry in Latin America. Our team of researchers can provide the strategic analysis you need to gain valuable insights to support strategic decision-making in your industry.

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