Medical workers are seen at a hospital engaging in health tourism in Ankara, Türkiye, on July 11, 2023. (Photo by Mustafa Kaya/Xinhua)
by Burak Akinci
ANKARA, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Türkiye has seen a notable rise in the number of medical tourists as the country steps up efforts to boost health tourism.
In the first three months of 2023, the number of visitors to Türkiye for health and medical reasons increased by 37.5 percent compared to the same period in 2022, according to Firuz Baglikaya, head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies in a recent interview with the semi-official Anadolu Agency.
"We expect to receive more than 1.8 million medical tourists in 2023, which would mean a nearly 30 percent rise from the previous year," Baglikaya added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has on some occasions vowed to build his country into a "global center" in the field of healthcare.
"We are determined to make Türkiye a global center of attraction in healthcare, not just a provider of services to its own citizens," Erdogan said at the opening ceremony of a city hospital in the northwestern province of Kocaeli in April.
A patient is treated at a hospital engaging in health tourism in Ankara, Türkiye, on July 11, 2023. (Photo by Mustafa Kaya/Xinhua)
To meet the development goals, experts and industry insiders believed that a sustainable development policy is necessary.
"A comprehensive vision in all state institutions involved is needed to achieve the fixed targets," Aziz Ciga, chairman of a long-standing health service firm based in Istanbul, told Xinhua.
"We have great resources across Türkiye to explore and exploit, however, only a fraction of the potential has been tapped," Ciga pointed out, calling on the authorities to adopt a holistic approach to develop the sector.
Referring to the advantages of Türkiye in medical tourism, Ciga said the country is well known for cosmetic surgery, hair transplant, and beauty applications.
A medical worker talks with a patient at a hospital engaging in health tourism in Ankara, Türkiye, on July 11, 2023. (Photo by Mustafa Kaya/Xinhua)
Flocks of international patients come to Istanbul for hair transplants these years as the city is home to some of the best hair transplant centers in the world, which provide advanced techniques at affordable costs.
Patients are able to transplant hair in Türkiye on a budget between 2,500 dollars and 7,500 dollars, with their accommodation and transportation charges covered, far below the cost of hair transplant surgery in other countries, which is about 8,000-30,000 dollars.
Around one million people came to Türkiye for hair transplants last year, bringing the country a revenue of approximately 2 billion U.S. dollars, said Servet Terziler, head of the Turkish Health Tourism Association.
Dentists treat a patient at a hospital engaging in health tourism in Ankara, Türkiye, on July 11, 2023. (Photo by Mustafa Kaya/Xinhua)
Terziler said the country has set a goal of making a turnover of 20 billion dollars in health tourism in the coming few years.
He added that 70 percent of Türkiye's medical tourists come from Europe and 30 percent from the Arab states.
To attract more tourists, many Turkish medical tour companies offer their clients packages that include medical procedures and resort visits.
Experts said with new regulations and investments, the health tourism sector would grow further, which will help alleviate the severe economic woes the country and its people are suffering. ■