Turkey, the sixth most visited tourism destination in the world, has also become one of the most popular medical tourism destinations with more than half a million medical tourists visiting the country last year, according to data compiled by Anadolu Agency from the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB), the Health Ministry and private hospital figures.
While 109,000 medical tourists visited Turkey in 2010, this figure rose to 583,000 last year, mainly due to the rise in the number of tourists from Libya, Iraq and Germany.
With the addition of plastic surgery figures, this figure increased up to 700,000, according to sector representatives.
“A total of 30 million people travel to receive medical care across the world a year and they spend over $150 billion, producing almost six times higher added value than sector average. Turkey became one of the top ten medical tourism destinations last year, although the country ranked 17th place five years ago,” said the vice president of the Aegean Medical Tourism Association, Zeki Hozer.
The United States and Germany have been the most popular destinations for medical tourists, Hozer said, adding India, Malaysia, Cuba, Belgium and Poland were also very popular.
With rising state incentives and marketing activities in the sector, the number of medical tourists has been increasing, according to Levent Baş, the vice president of Turkey’s Medical Tourism Development Council.
Baş said around 50-70 percent of the promotional activities were supported by the state and some portions of visiting medical tourists’ flight tickets were paid.
“Turkey has been the best medical tourism destination after the U. S. and Germany in quality. Many health centers in Istanbul now make almost half of their revenue from their foreign patients,” Baş said.
He added European people usually visit Turkey for optical care, dental treatment, plastic surgery, hair transplantation operations and in vitro fertilization treatment.
“Iraqi and Libyan people visit Turkey as they could not find proper medical care in their countries and Turkey is geographically proximate to their countries. People from Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, however, prefer Germany for medical reasons rather than Turkey,” he said.
Turkey’s Health Ministry intends to increase the number of medical tourists to 2 million by 2023 by introducing tax-free health care zones specifically tailored for foreign patients.