Taiwanese health authorities said Thursday they plan to establish a special medical zone for foreigners in a bid to tap into the growing health tourism market.

The zone will be located near the island's major international airport in the northern county of Taoyuan to make it easily accessible for international visitors, said a health department official who asked not to be named.

The government aims to attract local and international investors, including hospitals and hotels, hoping they will invest at least four billion Taiwan dollars (130 million US) in the project, he said.

Health authorities expect that in its first four years of operation the zone will attract around 45,000 foreigners, generating more than 10 billion Taiwan dollars in revenue.

Industry watchers are hopeful that Taiwan, which has been promoting medical tourism in recent years, can hold its own against competitors in the region such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

According to a Deloitte Consulting survey, the number of medical tourists receiving treatment in Asia is expected to grow by more than 20 percent annually, creating an industry worth about four billion US dollars by 2012.