Turkey has emerged as one of the top destinations for medical tourism, ranking sixth in the world for medical tourism, according to fresh figures.
Out of roughly 35 million tourists who visited the country last year, around 188,095 came for surgical procedures such as hair transplants, liposuction and cancer treatment, according to the latest figures by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The number of medical tourists who visited Turkey in the first six months of 2014 totaled 162,445 with revenues reaching $328 million, high compared to the amount spent by holiday tourists.
“Currently, over 1,000 patients travel to Turkey every year to take advantage of the medical services we offer,” said Fatih Öztürk, the project manager of VisitandCare.com, a patient and doctor matching service that helps patients from the Middle East and Europe find a doctor.
“They are mostly from western European, countries like the U.K., Germany and the Netherlands, as well as from Libya and United Arab Emirates,” said Öztürk, regarding the clientele. Öztürk said there are various factors behind Turkey’s appeal to foreign clientele.
“People from countries with heavily congested health systems welcome the opportunity to choose the time of their surgery together and saving 40 to 70 percent, which is more affordable than European countries. While those from less-developed nations are attracted by Western-trained medics and new private healthcare services available in Turkey,” he said, in addition to Turkey being a central tourist attraction.
Turkey’s Health Ministry said the country has great advantages in terms of health tourism due to its convenient geographic location.
“To meet the changing domestic needs as well as to take advantage of health tourism, private hospitals and health centers have been established all over the country. The country has made significant improvements and has begun to compete with countries such as India, Malaysia, Thailand and Hungary which are strong in this sector,” the ministry said in a 2012 evaluation report on medical tourism in Turkey.
Foreign institutions, including Malaysian sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional, Qatar’s First Investment Bank, Argus Capital Partners and the World Bank’s International Finance Corp (IFC) have invested money into Turkey’s healthcare industry.
In conjunction with a public-private partnership, Turkey is building medical facilities that will see the state rent city hospitals to private sector companies who will then run these facilities for the next 25 years.
Ankara’s Doctors’ Union President Özden Şener said patients from western countries, whose medical insurance do not cover Orthodontic treatment and cosmetic surgery, prefer Turkey due to its low-cost labor and affordable holiday prices. Şener, however, claimed many patients come from war-torn countries such as Syria, Libya and Palestine and this has put pressure on the health system with doctors seeing as many as 100 patients per day.
Tourism income in Turkey increased by 7.9 percent in the second quarter of 2014 to reach $9 billion, compared to the same quarter of last year, figures from the Turkish Statistical Institute showed. Meanwhile, foreign visitors accounted for 84.5 percent of this income and Turkish citizens living abroad accounted for the rest.
“Turkey is considering employing foreign doctors in order to fill the current vacancies in public hospitals, with Greek professionals being one of their main targets,” Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu said last month, while private hospitals are already hiring foreign doctors.