After a chaotic 2020, which was marked by the coronavirus pandemic that halted international travel and left no industry unaffected, Turkey's health tourism industry is optimistic about 2021.
The country's health tourism industry closed 2020 with approximately a 20% loss, after being valued at around $3 billion (TL 22.32 billion) in 2019, Turkey Health Tourism Association Chairperson (TÜSATDER) Servet Terziler said.
"After the success of vaccine studies, health tourism can surpass the 2019 figures in terms of turnover as of the second half of 2021," Terziler said in a statement Sunday.
He added that Turkey, which is taking firm steps toward becoming a global brand in health tourism, survived 2020 with minimal damage, despite the fact that the economy and social lives came to a near standstill.
The industry closed 2020 with a turnover of $2.5 billion, according to the TÜSATDER head, who stressed the results from the COVID-19 vaccine studies will determine the future of both the world and health tourism.
"Health tourism closed the year with little damage despite the loss in the first three months ... There has been a 20% loss compared to 2019. In hair transplantation alone, 2020 turnover reached $1.3 billion. We saw a significant acceleration in the number of patients coming from abroad in July, August and September," said Terziler.
The largest increase was in October, he added.
"Even in the last month of the year, we found that despite the anxiety, people still preferred Turkey for treatment."
Health tourism encompasses a wide range of treatments, such as medical tourism, in which patients have treatments and surgeries at hospitals; thermal tourism, providing rehabilitation at thermal facilities; and tourism catering to the elderly and disabled, offering them long-term stays and social activities at geriatric treatment centers.
While Turkey has developed its investment portfolio within the framework of these categories, there has been a noteworthy increase in recent years of tourists seeking oncological, orthopedic and aesthetic treatments.
Terziler said Turkey is an "unbeatable country" in Europe and the region in terms of health tourism.
"With our return to normal, we will feel the advantage of this situation in almost every sector. As long as the vaccination programs are successful," he added.
The pandemic has led to feelings of pessimism, with people forced to stay home, Terziler said, stressing it was normal to feel overwhelmed.
"Aesthetic treatments make people even happier than before. The number of patients arriving in the last quarter of 2020 proves this. It is the same with domestic treatments. Last year, most of the patients came from Europe. The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium took the top spot. Sweden, Denmark and Norway were among the Scandinavian countries that preferred Turkey for aesthetic treatments," he added.
The TÜSATDER chairperson said Asia was Turkey's new target for health tourism. "This year, our search for new markets in the Asian region will begin with countries like India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan. Health tourism will continue to contribute to Turkey's total service exports," Terziler said.