Healthy Travel : TTG Mena

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TRUE DEFINITION

Driven by the increased integration of global

economies, tourism opportunities, ease of

travel, cultural understanding, availability

of quality affordable healthcare and implementation

of international standards of

services; the healthcare and tourism industries

have expanded their horizons to benefit from

a growing niche segment which is labelled

medical tourism.

 

The term itself is widely interchangeable with

global healthcare, medical travel, healthcare

travel and health tourism. However, each of

these terms can be used to define specific segments

of the global healthcare industry.

Medical tourism itself fills a valuable niche

that is desperately needed in countries with

bureaucratically flawed or unaffordable

healthcare. This industry looks set to expand

developed official or unofficial medical tourism

structures to promote their country, state or

city as the true destination of choice for such

a purpose.

 

To support this, there is a growing trend

of medical tourism facilitator businesses, or

groups which provide comprehensive support

services including travel, tourism, concierge,

travel insurance, medical assistance and relevant

medical and non-medical support services

to the patient.

 

CHALLENGING TIMES

Factors which are proving to be the industry’s

major challenges have been identified in a

recent research study which was conducted by

myself, where I found out that 94 per cent of

industry experts agreed that medical tourism is

yet to truly reach its full potential.

The research also observed that the confusion,

or a lack of information and fear

about complications following surgery, is the

main reason for patient reluctance to cross

international borders for health services.

The top four challenges to the medical

tourism industry were identified as being;

‘accessing reliable information’ at 59 per

cent; ‘too many newcomers jumping on the

medical tourism bandwagon who do not have

sufficient experience or understanding of

the industry’ at 54 per cent; ‘lack of pre- and

post-operative care arrangements’ at 52 per

cent; and ‘complicated intra-country laws and

legal procedures’ at 49 per cent.

 

REGIONAL SHARE

Catering to the industry with ease, the Middle

East has a unique dual position in the medical

and wellness tourism industries. On one

hand, the region’s well-developed healthcare

providers are preparing to capture the international

market while on the other hand,

international healthcare organisations are

tapping into the GCC’s affluent society in

search of highly sophisticated and advanced

healthcare services unavailable within the

region itself.

 

The growth of medical tourism, especially in

Jordan, Lebanon, the UAE and Saudi Arabia has

provided an opportunity for the Middle East,

which so far has made few inroads in the sector.

For many years already, a top priority for

medical providers around the world has been to

attract medical tourists from the Middle East,

however, now the trend is gradually reversing

as the Middle East is seeking to attract medical

tourists where the cost of healthcare and delays

in getting treatment have risen sharply.

The outbound medical tourism industry is

so far limited to the GCC countries while Jordan

leads with regards to inbound tourism

activities, and Lebanon has developed a niche

segment within the cosmetic surgery field.

The greatest challenge for the Middle

East is to improve the perception of the

destinations which is currently surrounding it,

as traditionally not all Middle Eastern countries

are known for their world-class quality

healthcare facilities which can cater with ease

to international patients. Moreover, recent political

and social changes within the region have

brought with them new challenges for the Middle

Eastern countries to face within the medical

tourism industry.

Many countries are continuing to target

the GCC market as, for instance, a recently

held event entitled, International Medical

Tourism Destination, organised by the FICCC

and supported by the Indian government is

setting up a platform in Kuwait to provide

quality healthcare services at affordable prices

for the regional population. Similarly, many

other industry relevant road shows are being

organised by regional governments, in an attempt

to further promote medical tourism to

tap into the affluent Middle Eastern patients.

On the other hand, GCC countries have

shown a tremendous interest in promoting

medical tourism but I believe that these

countries will have to go through a very

tough process to develop medical tourism as

the key challenge for them, in my opinion,

remains the lack of trust in their own healthcare

system.

 

Another recent survey revealed that around

70 per cent of the UAE population would

prefer to travel to a different country if they

encounter a serious illness, and the GCC

market is willing to travel, in fact they travel

abroad just for common health checkups.

The medical tourism market also has affordability

for many levels, and most importantly

regional governments can sponsor patients

with their medical costs in most cases.

In any case, should the GCC wish to

continuously develop the medical tourism

industry there is most definitely a great

need for co-ordinated efforts from the

GCC governments and the private sector to

reverse the trend, but until then international

healthcare providers will continue to

penetrate the market.

at an escalating pace over the next decade

as more and more people begin to trust the

quality, and see the advantages of having their

surgery performed in developing countries

that provide quality healthcare. At the same

time the patient also gets an opportunity to

directly or indirectly engage with the tourism

activities of the destination.

TRAVEL BENEFITS

Getting to any given destination for medical

tourism purposes obviously involves travelling,

which is an essential component, while tourism

is an optional component however, it has

been observed that either the patients themselves

or their companions also certainly enjoy

 

the tourism attractions of any respective

medical tourism destination.

Hence, more than 50 countries have

 

developed official or unofficial medical tourism

structures to promote their country, state or

city as the true destination of choice for such

a purpose.

To support this, there is a growing trend

of medical tourism facilitator businesses, or

groups which provide comprehensive support

services including travel, tourism, concierge,

travel insurance, medical assistance and relevant

medical and non-medical support services

to the patient.

CHALLENGING TIMES

Factors which are proving to be the industry’s

major challenges have been identified in a

recent research study which was conducted by

myself, where I found out that 94 per cent of

industry experts agreed that medical tourism is

yet to truly reach its full potential.

The research also observed that the confusion,

or a lack of information and fear

about complications following surgery, is the

main reason for patient reluctance to cross

international borders for health services.

The top four challenges to the medical

tourism industry were identified as being;

‘accessing reliable information’ at 59 per

cent; ‘too many newcomers jumping on the

medical tourism bandwagon who do not have

sufficient experience or understanding of

the industry’ at 54 per cent; ‘lack of pre- and

post-operative care arrangements’ at 52 per

cent; and ‘complicated intra-country laws and

legal procedures’ at 49 per cent.

REGIONAL SHARE

Catering to the industry with ease, the Middle

East has a unique dual position in the medical

and wellness tourism industries. On one

hand, the region’s well-developed healthcare

providers are preparing to capture the international

market while on the other hand,

international healthcare organisations are

tapping into the GCC’s affluent society in

search of highly sophisticated and advanced

healthcare services unavailable within the

region itself.

The growth of medical tourism, especially in

Jordan, Lebanon, the UAE and Saudi Arabia has

provided an opportunity for the Middle East,

which so far has made few inroads in the sector.

For many years already, a top priority for

medical providers around the world has been to

attract medical tourists from the Middle East,

however, now the trend is gradually reversing

as the Middle East is seeking to attract medical

tourists where the cost of healthcare and delays

in getting treatment have risen sharply.

The outbound medical tourism industry is

so far limited to the GCC countries while Jordan

leads with regards to inbound tourism

activities, and Lebanon has developed a niche

segment within the cosmetic surgery field.

The greatest challenge for the Middle

East is to improve the perception of the

destinations which is currently surrounding it,

as traditionally not all Middle Eastern countries

are known for their world-class quality

healthcare facilities which can cater with ease

to international patients. Moreover, recent political

and social changes within the region have

brought with them new challenges for the Middle

Eastern countries to face within the medical

tourism industry.

Many countries are continuing to target

the GCC market as, for instance, a recently

held event entitled, International Medical

Tourism Destination, organised by the FICCC

and supported by the Indian government is

setting up a platform in Kuwait to provide

quality healthcare services at affordable prices

for the regional population. Similarly, many

other industry relevant road shows are being

organised by regional governments, in an attempt

to further promote medical tourism to

tap into the affluent Middle Eastern patients.

On the other hand, GCC countries have

shown a tremendous interest in promoting

medical tourism but I believe that these

countries will have to go through a very

tough process to develop medical tourism as

the key challenge for them, in my opinion,

remains the lack of trust in their own healthcare

system.

Another recent survey revealed that around

70 per cent of the UAE population would

prefer to travel to a different country if they

encounter a serious illness, and the GCC

market is willing to travel, in fact they travel

abroad just for common health checkups.

The medical tourism market also has affordability

for many levels, and most importantly

regional governments can sponsor patients

with their medical costs in most cases.

In any case, should the GCC wish to

continuously develop the medical tourism

industry there is most definitely a great

need for co-ordinated efforts from the

GCC governments and the private sector to

reverse the trend, but until then international

healthcare providers will continue to penetrate the market.

 

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