The health tourism industry has undergone an increasing leap in the 21st century due to medical technology and treatment methods. Health tourism is a branch of the tourism industry in which a citizen of a country tries to travel to parts of the world that are in a more advanced position in terms of health facilities in order to meet their health needs. Every year, many people worldwide travel to other countries to benefit from medical treatments with higher standards or lower prices.
Unfortunately, since 2020, health tourism, one of the fastest-growing industries globally, has been severely negatively affected by the Corona crisis and suffered more than any other industry.
But the good news is that in the last few months, due to the global vaccination, these concerns have been slightly alleviated, and health tourism has resumed in all countries, including Iran.
Iran has not been spared from this growing phenomenon and considers it a way to increase foreign exchange earnings and develop health tourism.
Therefore, in recent years and before the Corona pandemic, the Ministry of Health and Medical Education and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism of Iran developed appropriate strategies and adequate infrastructure, achieved a good position, especially among neighboring countries.
Due to its strengths and opportunities, Iran gained a more significant percentage of this international market every year. Health tourism experts in Iran predicted that by 2025, 1-2 million health tourists would enter Iran annually.
Corona crisis and Iran’s health tourism opportunities
Although the Corona crisis weakened the health tourism market in the world and Iran, it provided many development opportunities and changed this world industry.
In Iran, while providing an excellent opportunity to build the necessary infrastructure for the post-Corona era, such as a proper website, active social networking, virtual clinics, and development of medical services in diagnostics and care. This opportunity has improved admission and queuing system management processes related to international patients in diagnostic and treatment institutions, related policies to the health tourism market, etc.
Foreign tourists travel to Iran to receive medical services and even undergo surgery. The Persian Gulf and Iraq citizens are most patients referred to Iranian medical centers in different cities for treatment. Among these, cosmetic procedures such as nose surgery, body sculpting, and medical services such as ophthalmology, infertility, dental implants, and gingival surgery treatment have received more attention and are the most important medical attraction in Iran for foreigners are from the region.
Compared to European countries, medical expenses in Iran are 35% less than in Western European countries. Even compared to Turkey, Iran’s medical expenses are 50%lower than that country’s medical expenses. For this reason, Iran has always been a health tourism hub in the region.
The high cost of treatment, low level of quality, and weakness in most countries in the region increase the demand for the medical system in Iran. Reasonable prices, acceptable quality of health systems, and new diagnostic techniques and therapy are important factors in health tourism in Iran. Also, the historical and natural attractions of the country encourage foreign patients to have a quiet recovery period in Iran.
Relying on abilities and potentials such as climate and nature, cultural and historical attractions, Renowned doctors, equipment, facilities, and advanced methods has thrived Iran health tourism situation in the region and world.
Capacities of attracting tourists
The following are examples of health tourism due to the existing medical specialties in the country and natural resources:
- Ophthalmology, especially LASIK
- Dentistry and dental implants
- Organ transplants
- Cardiac surgery, especially arterial bypass
- Joint replacement surgeries (knee, etc.)
- Cosmetic and plastic surgery
- Stem cells
- Slimming and fitness
- Recreational therapy such as Sludge therapy, mud therapy, sand therapy, hydrotherapy, and thalassotherapy spaces
Iran’s competitive advantages in the health tourism sector are divided into three sub-sectors: price advantage, technical and technological, and tourism, which are discussed below:
- Low costs of diagnosis, treatment, and accommodation
- High hospital tariffs in developed countries
- Low price of surgeries in Iran due to high exchange rate;
- Providing the country’s medical and health needs through the export of goods related to medicine and health tourism and its benefits,
- Proximity to the Persian Gulf and neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and some Arab countries need other countries to receive desirable medical services.
- Lack of supply in health services in the region
- Increasing the number of European tourists entering due to the improvement of Iran’s foreign relations
Technical and technological advantage
- Performing the most advanced surgeries such as open heart, spine, iris and plastic surgeries and organ transplants
- Perform advanced Infertility techniques
- Iran achieved new achievements in the field of medicine, such as stem cells
- World-renowned specialties in cardiac surgery, transplantation, ophthalmology, plastic and cosmetic, infertility, and dental treatment
- advanced Equipped laboratory and genetic tools
- Having the latest modern diagnostic, health, and medical equipment
- Existence of numerous specialized and sub-specialized medical centers at the international level
- Presence of more than than 50 medical schools
- Utilization of new medical technology
- Geographical proximity to Central Asia and the Middle East, and the Arab market
- Cultural and linguistic similarity with foreign neighbors
- Planting, harvesting, processing of medicinal plants
- Possessing about 300 mineral springs with healing properties
- Increasing government attention to planning and investment in medical tourism
- The legal obligation of the Ministry of Health to launch health tourism
- Favorable and various weather conditions (four seasons)
- Tourist, historical, cultural, and natural attractions;
- A suitable cultural environment for Muslim countries
- Different areas of health tourism in Iran
Iran can develop its latent capacity in health tourism. With the help of potentials, Iran has experienced in recent years through the production of advanced medical equipment, health items, and the implementation of medical mechanisms.
The development of technologies, especially in the field of digital, information, and communication technology, and new methods in medicine and tourism, helps health tourists.
In addition to such measures, telemedicine is also experiencing significant growth in Iran: Many hospitals are expanding their online pre-trip diagnostic and post-trip counseling services. While such solutions are not as effective as face-to-face tourism, they have opened new doors for health tourism development.
The ability to produce vaccines, the combination of countries’ health facilities and infrastructure with the possibility of vaccinating non-natives have increased the scope for travel for health purposes. The opportunity that Iran provides to patients in the field of health services.