Foreign visitors coming to Turkey for healthcare tourism are reported to spend almost 10 times more than those who come for vacation, according to the Association of Health Strategies and Social Policies (SASOMER).
Turkey has been trying to capitalize on its health tourism potential and around 1.1 million people visit Turkey for this purpose, SASOMER Chair Turan Buzgan said.
The health tourism sector consists of three subgroups, namely, "medical tourism," "tourism for the senior and handicapped," and "thermal tourism," Buzgan said. He highlighted that Turkey is open to improvement in these three areas. He revealed that visitors who come for health tourism spend less money but get better quality health services in Turkey compared to other countries. A well-designed medical curriculum, good, qualified health services and short waiting lists are the advantages of the Turkish health sector for foreign tourists, Buzgan remarked.
The global health tourism business is a $300 billion market, which is expected to increase to $500 billion in the next three to four years; it will reach $1 trillion after 2023.
According to the information provided by the SASOMER chair, Turkey obtains revenue of $2.3-3 billion from health tourism and the country is predicted to raise this figure to around $5 billion by 2020.
"The per capita expenditure of foreign tourists who come to Turkey to get health treatments is almost 10 times higher than those visiting the country for vacation. Therefore, we need to focus on improving health tourism," Buzgan said.
Highlighting that convenient transportation and communication gave momentum to global health tourism, Buzgan said that medical tourism providers in Turkey mostly serve in the areas of eye diseases, oncology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, oncotherapy, and cosmetic surgeries like hair transplantation. He also noted that Turkey also has advantages in thermal tourism and tourism for the senior and handicapped.
"Affordable and qualified health service, short waiting times compared to European countries, and modern and well-equipped hospitals may enable Turkey to claim a bigger share from global healthcare tourism," he emphasized.
Saying that the U.S., the U.K., Spain, Italy and some North European countries rank top in global healthcare tourism, Buzgan also noted that certain Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand are getting specialized in this area and offer attractive advantages.
Meanwhile, health tourism in Turkey is without a doubt growing every year, with the country becoming a dominating player in the global industry. According to data released recently by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), the health tourism sector in Turkey increased by 12 percent to reach $700 million in 2016. Turkey has already been a hub for hair transplant and physiotherapy services, welcoming patients from almost 60 countries including Middle Eastern, Arabic and European countries, as well as African countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
Every year thousands of people travel to Turkey for hair transplants; the majority of whom are from Arab countries. Similarly, more than 25,000 patients come to Turkey for eye surgery, the majority of them Europeans.
More people choose Turkey as their destination for hair transplants and this is mainly because of the high quality and relatively low cost of the surgeries. With over 200 hair transplant surgeries carried out daily and hundreds of clinics around Turkey, particularly in Istanbul, Turkey is a pioneer in hair transplants thanks to skillful surgeons and experienced medical teams.
Compared to the U.S. and U.K., where hair transplants run as high as $25,000, the TL 5,000 (approximately $1,410) price tag for the same procedure in Turkey is considered relatively low among patients. Those seeking a hair transplant mainly hail from Middle Eastern countries as well as from Germany, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Libya, bringing revenue to the health tourism sector as well as the tourism sector overall, with many of them vacationing in Turkey with family during the recovery process.
Now Turkey is becoming a leading destination for eye surgery. The country is the number one choice of patients around the world, from the U.K. to Iraq, with those suffering from cataracts or macular degeneration seeking treatment in Turkish hospitals. The international patients prefer Turkey for treatment because the operations are reasonably-priced and patients trust the experience of Turkish doctors.
For tourists seeking the health benefits of Turkey's natural wonders, spending a holiday enjoying the natural thermal springs is gaining popularity, especially with tourists from Arab countries. Known for their healing properties against skin diseases, depression, gastro-intestinal, respiratory disorders and, especially, rheumatism, the thermal springs provide a warm shelter for both locals and visitors alike.
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