On average, foreigners visiting Turkey for health tourism spent some $2,013 per person in 2018, nearly three times the normal tourist, according to Turkish Travel Agencies Association (TÜRSAB) Chairman Firuz Bağlıkaya. Bağlıkaya said 551,748 tourists arrived in Turkey last year for health and treatment purposes, a 27.35% increase year-on-year. Turkey has been bearing fruits from the investments it made in health-oriented infrastructure and facilities over the last decade, such as city hospitals and thermal facilities, to increase the standard of medical services provided to attract people from around the world.
This resulted in the number of tourists visiting the country for health purposes in the last 10 years hitting 3.2 million.
Bağlıkaya said per capita health tourism expenditure internationally stands at $6,500, while the size of the medical health tourism market has reached $100 billion.
He stressed that including those who came for touristic purposes and underwent operations such as hair transplantation and aesthetic procedures in private hospitals or health centers, and those who came to benefit from thermal facilities and third-age tourism, Turkey's income in the field of health tourism reached approximately $2 billion last year.
Turkey's share in health tourism increases about 25% every year, according to Bağlıkaya, who noted that the Turkey brand needs to be promoted and marketed more to maximize income from this field in world rankings. Stressing that a tourist visiting Turkey for health tourism spends more than three times the normal tourist, Bağlıkaya said that the 2023 targets of the Health Ministry include increasing the number of visitors coming for medical treatment to 1.5 million annually and health tourism revenue at least five-fold to $10 billion.
Speaking about the ministry data, Bağlıkaya said Turkey ranks fifth among countries hosting the most international patients after the U.S., Germany, Thailand, and India.
"As part of health tourism, most tourists come from Azerbaijan, Germany, Britain, Georgia and Iran, followed by countries such as Spain, Netherlands, Bulgaria, France, Russia, the U.S., Italy, Greece and Sweden," he added.
Health tourists choose Turkey for a variety of reasons, including price, quality, technical conditions, short waiting periods and high-end facilities.
"Turkey has an advantageous position due to its proximity to Europe, Middle East, and Gulf countries," Bağlıkaya continued. "Besides, we have many advantages in terms of climate, cultural wealth, price advantages, quality of health services, trained and expert health teams and transportation network. We are in an extremely advantageous position in terms of medical tourism, spa, wellness, thermal health tourism, sports tourism, third age and disabled tourism. Thus, we have the quality of products and services that can appeal to all segments."
Turkey holds a prominent place in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and organ transplants as well as dental care and plastic surgery.
Bağlıkaya said with the development of health tourism in Turkey, demand, especially for laser eye surgeries, dental operations, implants and hair transplantation, increased and that the number of patients coming for treatment increased in the summer months, adding one reason for this is that "those who come for therapeutic purposes participate in city tours during the healing process."
"According to the information we have obtained, women come with demands for liposuction, which is called a regional fat removal operation, nasal aesthetics and different aesthetic surgeries. In men, hair transplantation comes to the fore," he said.
Health tourism encompasses a wide range of treatments, from medical tourism, such as treatment and surgery in hospitals; thermal tourism, with services such as rehabilitation and rest in thermal facilities; and elderly and disabled tourism, with long-term stays with social activities in geriatric treatment centers.
While Turkey has developed its investment portfolio within the framework of these categories, the interest of tourists who seek treatment in areas such as oncology, orthopedics and aesthetics in the past few years has been reflected in official figures.