Medical tourism provides a facelift to Turkey’s economy
While visitors to Turkey generally opt for more traditional activities: exploring ruins, soaking up the Mediterranean sunshine and enjoying fresh food, the country’s health tourism industry is also enjoying a boom.
Turkey is now the world’s sixth largest health tourism destination, with over 188,000 out of last year’s 35 million visitors undergoing medical procedures ranging from liposuction to cancer treatment, according to the World Tourism Organisation.
The number of medical tourists who visited the country in the first half of this year topped 162,000, netting Turkey a healthy 255m Euros.
Patient and doctor matching service VisitandCare.com helps more than 1000 patients from the Middle East and Europe undergo medical procedures in Turkey each year. Project manager Fatih Ozturk says Turkey appeals to their patients - the bulk of whom hail from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands - for a variety of reasons. "People from countries with heavily congested health systems welcome the opportunity to choose the time of their surgeries together with the 40-70 percent savings, which is more affordable than European countries.”
Patients from less-developed nations are drawn by the highly trained health professionals and top medical facilities that are appearing as Turkey’s private healthcare industry grows. “The fact that Turkey is a central tourist attraction is also enticing."
A near tripling of Turkey’s gross domestic product over the last decade, coupled with the country’s youthful population means private equity investors are rushing to invest in Turkey’s rapidly growing service industries. In a medical evaluation report in 2012, the Turkish health ministry claimed that the country has significant advantages as well as being conveniently placed between Europe and the Middle East.
"Both for meeting the changing domestic needs as well as taking advantage of health tourism, private hospitals and health centers have been established all over the country," the report said.
The report added that Turkey is now in a position to compete with health tourism strongholds like India, Malaysia, Thailand and Hungary.
Turkey is capitalising on being able to offer low cost procedures that are not covered by medical insurance in Western countries - for example, odontotherapy and cosmetic surgery.
Tourism income in Turkey increased by 7.9 per cent in the second quarter of 2014, compared to the same period in 2013.