What can medical tourism learn from previous recessions?

How will the medical tourism sector fare in a global recession that's affecting everything from house prices to car sales to polar bears and dog ownership!

If unemployment in the Western world climbs to record levels in the coming year, is this good news or bad news for the healthcare sector?

Some good news comes in a recent McKinsey analysis. According to McKinsey, in previous recessions, US consumers changed their their spending priorities rather than cutting all expenditure across the board. In discretionary areas of expenditure such as dining out, personal care products, and charitable donations fell. But expenditure on groceries, books, insurance, education and healthcare actually rose.

See the McKinsey analysis - Industry trends in recessions.

However.... compared to the 1990/91 and 2000/01 downturns what we are facing now could be much much worse. In the UK, there are early indications that discretionary expenditure on private education and, of more relevance, private self paid surgery is being affected.

It remains to be seen whether those with less money in their pockets will be attracted by low cost treatment abroad , and whether the credit crunch stimulates new demand for medical tourism.