TOKYO -- Airline group ANA Holdings is getting into the medical tourism trade, looking to make long-term fliers of affluent Chinese and others seeking quality care in Japan.
Travel subsidiary ANA Sales will begin offering packages, including airfare and hotel stays, for Chinese travelers as early as this month as an initial step. The first tours could begin in late March. ANA will partner with Kameda Medical Center in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo, which will offer comprehensive health checkups as part of the deal.
A sample itinerary of a three-day stay includes car service to the Beijing international airport, a business-class flight on All Nippon Airways to Tokyo's Haneda, and transportation to a hotel near the hospital on day 1. A comprehensive checkup consisting of blood tests, gastrointestinal endoscopy and other procedures will take place from day 2 to the early afternoon of day 3. Customers may request an MRI brain scan and CT lung scan as add-ons. Then the traveler would take an evening flight from Narita Airport, arrive in Beijing and get a ride home. Optional Tokyo sightseeing will be available as well. Package prices will start at 50,800 yuan ($7,325).
Kameda Medical Center began offering checkups for Chinese customers in significant numbers in 2010, and now serves around 200 such visitors a year. ANA Sales has secured monthly slots for physicals to ensure availability.
Marketing of the packages will be delegated to travel agencies in Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian and Qingdao, among other places. ANA aims to serve 50 individuals in the first year of business.
Japan issued 946 visas for medical stays in 2015, up about 50% from a year earlier, according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Foreigners entering Japan on short-term stay visas can also receive health care, so the real tally of people coming for medical services is probably greater. The ANA packages will work with short-term stay visas.
More than 80% of medical-treatment visa recipients are Chinese, and almost 10% are Russians.
Demand for health care is on the rise in emerging markets, but they lack ample high-quality medical facilities. With medical tourism in advanced countries seen picking up, ANA decided to tap this potential in Japan.
ANA operates flights to and from 11 Chinese cities, including the Narita-Wuhan service launched last April. But it has struggled to fill seats on some routes amid competition from Chinese budget airlines.
The Japanese airline hopes to make steady customers of wealthy Chinese medical tourists by letting them savor its on-board service and airport lounge experience.