Turkey is increasingly looking at promoting health and medical tourism, aiming to raise the total number of medical visitors from 660,000 in 2019 to 1.5 million by 2023. Offering easier visa conditions will be a way to attract more travellers.

Turkey is already well established in health tourism with its highly qualified medical staff, fast and effective health care services, world-class technological and medical equipment, affordable price advantage, thermal underground resources, rapid diagnosis as well as traditional Turkish hospitality, according to an expert. The tradition goes back thousands of years with spa and thermal facilities in the country already attracting people during Roman times.

In 2002, the share of health expenditures in tourism revenues of Turkey was 1%. However, this rate increased to 4.5% in 2020, according to data from the International Health Services Inc. (USHAS), an institution of the Turkish Ministry of Health.

In 2019, 662,087 patients were part of Turkey’s medical tourism activities. Income from foreign visitors visiting for medical tourism purposes reached more than US$1.06bn (€910m). 2020 saw a decrease of almost 50% of total medical travellers with income reaching only US$549m (€473m). Year 2021 already looks better with possibly over 450,000 travellers for medical purposes by the end of the year.

Turkey’s target for medical tourism is 1.5 million foreign visitors and US$3bn (€2.6bn) income by 2023, according to USHAS.

To speed up its positioning as a medical tourism destination, the Turkish government recently announced it would ease visa requirements for foreign visitors coming for health purposes. Trade Ministry and Foreign Ministry signed the Medical Visa Cooperation Protocol, to authorise the Services Exporters’ Association (HIB) to look after medical travellers’ requirements.

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