Medical tourism

In search of an economic niche

Authored by: John Connell

Routledge Handbook on Tourism in the Middle East and North Africa

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138651920
eBook ISBN: 9781315624525
Adobe ISBN:


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Health tourism conceivably emerged in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago, but modern medical tourism in the region only began in the 1990s, with the wider transnationalism of health care. Medical tourism in the Middle East is associated with long-distance travel for medical care from check-ups to a range of invasive procedures, which emphasises its distinctive tourism status. Most countries in the region have sought to develop the industry and reverse outward flows but few have succeeded, because of relatively high costs and scarce human resources. Data are inadequate, but Tunisia has been relatively successful, alongside Israel, Iran, Turkey and Jordan. The most substantial attempt to restructure and develop medical tourism within the region has been at Dubai Healthcare City. Political instability discourages medical tourism elsewhere. Most medical tourists either cross nearby borders or are from the diaspora. Procedures encompass some limited cosmetic surgery, fertility and eye diseases. Nonetheless, on balance, most medical tourism is from the region, either to Europe and South East Asia, and is sometimes subsidised by Gulf State governments. Medical tourism has raised issues of equity and ethics, with concerns over displacement of local people and a focus on non-citizens, and over the appropriateness of certain procedures.

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