In an effort to generate more tourism revenues, Rwanda is to focus on medical tourism.
The nation is looking at all options to sustain the budding tourism sector that registered high foreign exchange receipts last year, It is now planning to focus on medical tourism as another option that could further enhance its tourism earnings.
Rica Rwigamba, the head of tourism at Rwanda Development Board, said, ‘The government is courting investors to set up advanced medical facilities in the country; we believe this will help make our country a regional tourism hub.’
The official also acknowledged that the nation could become a tourism hub only if it has world-class medical facilities, which would be difficult without the participation of private entities. Hence, the nation is embarking on a campaign to attract stakeholders who can establish facilities and infrastructure in the nation to make it a medical tourism hub. Rwigamba said that medical tourism would improve the foreign exchange receipts needed to bridge the current trade deficit that the country is facing. Rwanda’s trade deficit stands at over USD1.2bn.
The head of the tourism board said, ‘Medical tourism is something that requires a different approach if one is to attract world class health investment like Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital in Kimironko, Gasabo district. It is also about wooing people to provide quality medical services at affordable rates. Rwanda is in a good location in terms of climate, the security and quiet environment, which patients need when going through the process of healing.’
The department is also looking to tap into the domestic sector because there are many instances in which locals are referred to other nations for treatment. While the treatment itself may be economical, travel-related charges could be very costly.
The states of Taiwan and South Korea are to collaborate on building medical tourism facilities in the nation.
The two nations have agreed to enhance cooperation and collaboration to improve medical tourism, after they identified their comparative strengths within the growing market and set about creating a cooperative to mutually maximise those strengths. Recently, a Taiwanese group visited South Korea to learn how to expand medical tourism, and in the interests of helping each other in the common initiative, health and travel professionals in both nations have agreed to expand such exchanges.
The Taiwanese delegation visited local hospitals and learned how medical tourism brought together tour agencies and health professionals in Seoul. They also used the common forum to discuss how the two nations could help medical institutions in Taiwan create strategies to attract medical tourists.
South Korea has recently taken large strides on the international medical services scene. The sector has been ably supported by the government, which has taken an active interest in promoting tourism in the nation. As a strategy to develop the nation’s medical tourism, it had, initially offered to treat patients from developing countries with serious or rare conditions.
The government also provided support by investing heavily in advertisements and creating the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) to help promote the country’s medical tourism. According to KTO estimates, South Korea recorded over 120,000 medical tourist arrivals in 2011. In addition, many more tourists had availed themselves of minor medical facilities.
Taiwan has also been making recent attempts to enhance its medical tourist potential.
Over the last decade, the medical tourism industry has grown at double-digit rates. Spurred by the rising costs of adequate healthcare in the West, a series of high-quality international hospitals have seen their bookings more than double as residents of the United Kingdom, the United States, and other major population centres such as Australia search for safe, reliable, and affordable care.
But it’s not just medical tourism that’s moving overseas – it’s ‘fertility tourism’. The latest boom in international medicine has seen a growing number of UK and US-based couples travel overseas in search of reliable fertility treatment. It’s set to become a multi-billion dollar annual industry and, if it survives the PR onslaught many Western hospitals are preparing, a revolutionary health leader.
Spain is one of the world’s most popular fertility tourism destinations – a vibrant country with one of Europe’s most reliable health systems. Due to the prevalence of clinics and the high prices given to egg donors (many are paid over €900 for their eggs), the country is Europe’s most visible centre for fertility treatment, hormonal medicine and artificial conception.
The fertility tourism industry represents a chance not only to conceive, but to do so at a significant discount when compared to the options available in Britain. The cost of treatment in the UK tends to exceed £20,000 – a fee that’s often given for surgical procedures that don’t guarantee fertility or hormonal stability. Going overseas represents a financial saving and an increase in clinic quality.
While it seems unlikely that the industry will grow to the size of the medical tourism industry, it’s likely to become a major healthcare playing piece over the next decade. The medical tourism world has grown dramatically in the last five years, with more ultra-luxury hospitals appearing in nations such as Thailand, Costa Rica, and the United Arab Emirates.