Spotlight on: medical tourism

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Medical tourism may not be the most glamorous sector in travel, but for many destinations it’s a key revenue driver. Click. explores the opportunities for properties

Jordan is well-known for its state-of-the-art, internationally certified and accredited hospitals - so it’s no surprise that medical tourism contributes over 3% of the country’s GDP.

Medical or health tourism, according to the Medical Tourism Association, is where a person travels abroad to receive medical, dental or surgical care that is as good as, or better than, the treatment they might receive at home. There’s an element of cost too – many travel eastward from the US and Western Europe to find cheaper, quality medical treatment in Asia and the Middle East.

There are many countries around the world with huge medical tourism industries, and Jordan – with zero-wait times and excellent flight connections to the Middle East, Asia and Europe – is one of the leading destinations.

Doctor's Consultation

Photo: Atmantan Resort

“Common procedures include hip and knee replacements, IVF and fertility treatment, cosmetic surgery and cancer treatments,” explains Dr. Justin Abu Anza, Wellness and Tourism Manager for the Jordan Tourist Board. “Medical tourism in Jordan provides a significant boost to the economy.”

He estimates that travellers spend 30% on the required medical care, and then 70% on other aspects such as accommodation, food and any travel within the country. Jordan’s medical tourism sector is a case in point: this is an area of travel that’s not to be scoffed at, as there are clear benefits for the wider industry.

How does medical tourism work?

Generally, medical tourists go through an operator or ‘facilitator’ to book their treatment, travel and accommodation, such as the Medical Tourism Corporation in the USA, and it’s common for hospitals to foster partnerships with local hotels and resorts in order to provide the best pre- and post-treatment care for the patient.

Atmantan in India is one such resort. “We have a tie up with one of the leading orthopaedic hospitals in Pune, where their patients are coming to them for low-cost and high-quality treatments, then they come to us for pre and post-surgical rehabilitation,” says Nikhil Kapur, Owner of Atmantan.

India is one of the biggest medical tourism destinations in the world. “Some estimates put the industry at around US$5-6bn right now, and around 12-15% of the annual revenue of the big hospital chains comes from medical tourists,” says Kapur.

Atmantan sits among the mountains of a lush hill station between Mumbai and Pune, and offers a vast range of medical facilities. With doctors, nutrition experts and counsellors on-site, the resort has an impressive, all-encompassing package for medical tourists coming for treatment at the nearby Sancheti Hospital.

Blurred lines: medical tourism vs wellness tourism

But Atmantan also offers the kind of facilities more familiar to wellness resorts, such as meditation, yoga classes and spa treatments, so the resort appeals to markets beyond the hospital patients. “In a way, India is the land of medicine because of Ayurveda, which dates back to 3000 BC, so medical tourism and wellness tourism complement each other really well here.”

Medical tourism is reactive travel – it’s when somebody has a need to receive a low-cost treatment in a destination which offers the highest quality of healthcare

While it’s true that the wellness industry is becoming ever more scientific and making efforts to step up technology and expertise, there is still a defined difference between the two, says Kapur. “Medical tourism is reactive travel – it’s when somebody has a need to receive a low-cost treatment in a destination which offers the highest quality of healthcare. Whereas wellness tourism is a form of proactive tourism for people who are wanting to achieve their optimum state of health.”

What about business hotels?

Not all hotels need to offer the level of facilities that resorts like Atmantan do. Towering over Mumbai’s central, post-industrial neighbourhood of Parel, where old cotton mills have been converted into creative hubs and glitzy malls, ITC’s Grand Central hotel caters primarily for business travellers. But thanks to its unrivalled location among some of the South Indian city’s top hospitals, the property has also become the de facto accommodation for hundreds of medical tourists each year.

“At ITC Grand Central, we ensure the comfort of such guests in virtually every possible way,” explains General Manager Kerman Lalkaka, “curating meals, transportation, and living arrangements for family members.”

The addition of accessible rooms and toilets, adjoining rooms for accompanying friends or family, and courtesy transport to and from the hospital will often be enough to satisfy those coming for minor treatment.

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Hero image: Piron Guillaume, Unsplash

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Medical tourism is when a person travels abroad to receive medical care of the same or better quality than they would at home
In Jordan, the medical tourism industry is worth $1.3bn, and in India it’s estimated to be worth up to $6bn
Medical tourism facilitators help patients find the right destination, treatment and accommodation
Hospitals often have partnerships with hotels in order to coordinate pre and post-treatment care
Medical tourism and wellness tourism complement each other but have defined differences