About the Project
This project aims to explore the cosmetic surgery tourism industry from the point of view of tourists, surgeons, care workers, tourist agents and tour guides. There are lots of ‘myths’ about cosmetic surgery tourism, but we want to understand the motivations and experiences of people travelling for surgery and all those who work to provide this service.
Cosmetic surgery tourism is a new and developing industry that incorporates novel forms of labour and organizational structure that straddle national boundaries. For instance, it is possible for a cosmetic surgery travel agent to collect a patient from their doorstep in the UK or Australia, fly them to Spain or Thailand, transport them from the airport to a hotel near the hospital, allocate a nurse/ guide/ interpreter to be constantly at the patient’s side throughout their surgery, recovery and post-surgery tourist ‘experiences’, before returning them once more to their doorstep. Although the ‘credit crunch’ has undoubtedly slowed the growth of the cosmetic surgery industry globally, it has simultaneously swelled the numbers prepared to travel for ‘cut-price’ surgeries made possible by favourable currency exchange rates and lower labour costs outside the richest countries in the world. Little research has yet been conducted on mapping out this new industry and the experiences of those that enter into it. This research aims to broaden our understanding of the modes of operation of the organizations involved, the surgical tourist experience, and the potential implications for a globalized system of healthcare organized around consumption.
The research examines two sites of origin in detail – the UK and Australia – (as well as some tourists from China and Japan) and a number of popular cosmetic surgery tourism destinations including Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, Spain, Poland and Tunisia. The research team is investigating cosmetic surgery tourists, cosmetic surgery tourist agents, care workers, interpreters and tour guides, as well as clinic staff and surgeons. It explores the demand for surgery abroad through individual consumer motivations and charts their experiences and the structure, organisation and experiences of workers in the cosmetic surgery tourism industry. This study represents the first multi-site, empirical and systematic analysis of cosmetic surgery tourism and is being carried out by an internationally renowned research team.
Data from the study will be used to predict some of the key issues facing surgical tourists and healthcare providers in the future, in what will undoubtedly become a more mobile and internationalised market.
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