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Thailand offers tourists chance to win a new face

Nearly 1 million medical tourists visited Thailand in 2012 for services such as hip 
replacements, dental treatments and cosmetic surgery. In this file photo, a Thai therapist gives a deep laser stimulation treatment to a client at a medical spa in Bangkok.

Story highlights

  • Thailand Tourism Authority launches contest offering free facial surgery
  • Contest only open to non-Thai women between 25 and 45 years of age
  • An estimated 920,000 to 1.2 million medical tourists came to Thailand in 2013

Fancy a different face but can't afford to go under the knife?

Thailand's Tourism Authority has launched an Extreme Makeover contest, offering three lucky ladies a chance to win free facial surgery along with a shot at $5,000 and a luxury vacation.

To enter, you'll have to submit photos showing your face from various angles, along with a health profile and written explanation of why you so badly covet a makeover.

The judging committee, made up of medical experts and surgeons, will then pick the three winners. Finalists will be announced on May 7.

Naturally there's a catch.

You'll have to let all your insecurities play out online through videos and photos uploaded to the Extreme Makeover website while you're in Thailand for the surgery.

    You'll also be subjected to the scrutiny of public voters, who'll ultimately decide whether you deserve some cash to go with your new face.

    The contender with the highest number of votes gets the $5,000 and a luxury tour package.

    The two runners-up will also get their own luxury tour packages.

    MORE: Medical tourism: A global stampede for affordable care

    According to the rules, the Extreme Makeover contest is open to non-Thai women between 25 and 45 years of age who are able to stay in Thailand for a month.

    If the official competition video is anything to go by, the contest is aimed at those looking to become the "ultimate beauty" thanks to this "life changing opportunity" that will make their "dreams into a reality."

    All you have to do is "click and remain forever young."

    The finalists agree to give the Thailand Extreme Makeover project the right to use their names, images, videos and/or audio before and after surgery for display, public relations via online and offline media and domestic and international marketing.

    MORE: Rehab tourism in Thailand

    Thailand already a medical tourism hotspot

    Medical tourism contributed 9% of global GDP (more than $6 trillion) in 2011.

    Though the competition was launched to promote medical tourism in Thailand, the country is already considered an industry leader.

    "Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea are examples where government support has proved very successful at increasing business year on year, while places like India where governments have done little have seen numbers fall," says a new report by the International Medical Tourism Journal.

    Thailand has 30 healthcare organizations accredited by the U.S.-based Joint Commission International, considered a leading evaluator of global heath care quality and safety.

    For an international hospital to be accredited, it must meet the same set of standards as U.S. hospitals.

    Josef Woodman, CEO of U.S.-based medical travel consumer guide Patients Beyond Borders (PBB), tells CNN an estimated 920,000 to 1.2 million medical tourists came to Thailand in 2013, which represents around 10% of the worldwide patient flow for international medical travel.

    However, due to this year's political and social unrest, current flows are 40% off, along with the rest of tourism.

    "We expect that to bounce back as usual when things clear up," he adds.

    So just how much cheaper is it to get your face lift or hip replacement surgery in Thailand?

    Average savings for those visiting from the United States are in the 50-70% range, if you use U.S. costs across a variety of specialties and procedures as a benchmark, says Woodman.

    But sometimes that figure can reach 80-85% for the more expensive procedures such as heart and spine work, he adds.

    MORE: Bali wants in on the medical tourism action