Medical Tourism and health tourism in Iran
Health tourism and medical tourism are expanding areas of tourism and health, especially in Asia, where low prices, combined with standard care, are attracting more and more travelers
Health tourism and medical tourism are expanding areas of tourism and health, especially in Asia, where low prices, combined with standard care, are attracting more and more travelers; these tourists travel for medical treatment because it is whether non-existent or expensive in their own country. Traditionally, Europe and the United States have the best framework and the best advertising for this type of tourism, but today, Asian countries such as India, Thailand, Singapore or South Korea are serious competitors, given the much better prices for the same health services. The success of these countries is due in particular to their awareness of this potential, to the general development of tourism in these countries, as well as to the implementation of short and long-term programs to combine tourism and health services.
Health tourism is divided into two types: medical tourism, which means seeking medical treatment in other countries, usually because of more affordable prices; and health tourism, which encompasses general well-being, although it may have therapeutic purposes. Health tourism includes thalassotherapy, spa treatments, spas, etc.
Iran is today considered as one of the countries also endowed with a great potential in health tourism and medical tourism; it is already the first medical and health destination of the Islamic world. The rapid improvement of health indices in Iran, the development of biotechnologies and advanced medical technologies, the existence of medical centers and genetic or other research, unique in the Middle East, the quality of medical care - especially in surgery - and health, allied with the logical prices have already made Iran, despite the almost total absence of any advertising from the Iranian government, and despite a medium-developed tourist industry, the first destination of medical tourism and health in the region; Jordan is the only serious competitor, who has more experience in this area.
On average, 30,000 people come to Iran each year for health tourism and 20,000 people for medical tourism.
The geographical location of Iran also plays a role in its potential, on the one hand for health tourism and on the other hand, medical tourism as such. Medical tourists coming to Iran are mostly citizens of Iran's neighboring countries. Countries bordering Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Iraq and Turkey, whose citizens can not receive the same care in their own country. But there are also the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, the countries of Central Asia and some Latin American countries whose citizens come to Iran in the context of medical tourism, particularly in view of the price-performance ratio of health benefits.
In the field of health tourism, Iran has remarkable potential. The existence of diversified ecosystems, especially mountains, where there are thermal springs, deserts, promising calm and meditation, lakes with therapeutic waters, etc. are important assets in this area. To date, more than 1,000 hot springs with curative properties have been identified in the country, less than half of which have been locally exploited as part of health tourism.
In terms of medical tourism, Iran also has undeniable advantages, given the importance given to the medical sector. A health system spread throughout the country, expanding medical infrastructures, qualified medical personnel, a developed and expanding pharmaceutical industry (95% of the country's pharmaceutical demand is met by this industry), biotechnology and genetic studies (Iran is the world's fifth largest biotech country, and nine of the fifteen existing biotech molecules are currently produced in the country), regularly updated medical Long-term care, such as dialysis, international-quality surgery and low prices for all medical services compared to other countries with comparable health systems, attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year.
However, in the context of a limited development of Iranian tourism, the country's medical tourism also suffers from certain shortcomings, the most important of which is the lack of advertising and serious investment in this area, notable at least until 2003, decisions were made on job creation in the medical sector, but without specifically taking into account the tourism potential of this sector. It was from 2004 that Iranian government officials focused specifically on health tourism, with the merger into a single body of the Cultural Heritage Organization and the Iran Tourism Organization.
The importance of this tourism sector has recently aroused the interest of officials, and programs have been developed to concretely make Iran a regional pole at least in health tourism. Thus, the 4th National Development Plan provides that 30% of the necessary investments in health which are obtained through the export of medical, pharmaceutical and technological products.
To do this, deficiencies in this area have been identified. These include the lack of an organization specifically responsible for the development of medical tourism in Iran or the existence of multiple decision-making bodies, which eventually leads to a slowdown in programs. Recently, however, an Office of Health Tourism has been created, which deals specifically with health tourism and medical tourism, notably by promoting traditional Iranian medicine, rich enough to compete with other traditional Oriental medicines.
Government actors active in the expansion of health tourism are the Iranian Tourism Organization, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which are currently planning development plans for this sector. These bodies have so far developed a comprehensive program for the development of medical tourism, as well as a program called "Safety in Travel Medicine" based on the resolution of the 9th Assembly of the World Tourism Organization.
In the field of health and leisure tourism, the exploitation of the numerous thermal and mineral springs of the country is taken into account by the Iranian Tourism Organization, which is currently pursuing a study of the Iranian potential in thalassotherapy and spa treatments, particularly with the preparation of a complete guide on more than a thousand sources already identified and their possibilities of exploitation. Participation in international medical and tourism fairs since 2010 is also part of the organization's efforts to raise the profile of the Iranian sector internationally.
The issue of insurance and health care coverage which is at the heart of health tourism has been taken over by the Ministry of Social Security, which has recently made agreements with two Iranian insurance companies, Kârâfarin and Sinâ , which provide specific insurance in this area, facilitating access to care for foreign tourists.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been responsible for promoting medical cooperation at the international level and discussions are taking place at the inter-ministerial level for the establishment of quick-release medical visas for health tourists.
At regional level too, plans have been drawn up to enable the development of health tourism, in particular by investing in medical centers already active in this sector.