In a meeting in Ramsar, Mazandaran Province last August, the city was selected as the prime choice for a medical tourism village for the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) member countries.
The choice was based on the high potential of Ramsar, as it is known as the ‘bride’ of northern Iranian cities, to be changed into a tourism hub and its capacity for addressing the medical tourism requirements, the Persian daily Ta’adol reported.
It was decided to extend financial support to expand medical tourism by both state and private sector. Therefore, it was also decided to increase regional collaboration on the subject by developing necessary mechanisms for cooperation including information bank networks and experts and professional associations.
Other steps for further collaboration include the development of a medical tourism network for ECO, facilitating visa procedures for those seeking health care and physicians, and improving cooperation between relevant organizations.
International standards need to be set and implemented by hospitals, tour operators, and other affiliated sectors. Moreover, providing educational programs and training for service providers in medical tourism is another way to help boost the industry.
Emphasizing the significance of investment in medical tourism, and its role in economic development, director general of Mazandaran provincial office of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), Delavar Bozorgnia, said “some developed countries in Europe and North America, even countries like Turkey and India, pay the full expenses of their own medical tourists, including airfare and hotel costs,” adding “thus they advertise their medical tourism industry and its capabilities to the world.”
With highly experienced and skilled medical doctors, the added benefit of having the University of Medical Science located there, Mazandaran province is probably the best choice for a medical tourist hub, he added.
Previously, in an interview with Mehr News agency, Ramsar governor, Hossein Sarvari had considered the city a perfect contender, with its unique qualities. “The geographical, climatic, and topographic condition of Ramsar, puts it on par with other world famous tourist destinations.”
Maryam Asghari, a university professor at Mazandaran University, stressed the need for a change in vision of administrators toward providing opportunities for investors in getting involved with tourism-related activities, and says this can lead to the economy being less dependent on oil.
With several spas and hot springs, diverse vegetation and rare forest trees, several historical, ancient, and national sites, rich culture, and pleasant weather, Ramsar is the perfect place for initiating the medical tourism village project.
Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) is an intergovernmental regional organization, involving seven Asian and three Eurasian countries. It is part of the South-central Asian Union and was established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey for the purpose of promoting economic, technical and cultural cooperation among the member states. In 1992, the Organization was expanded to include seven new members: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It was the successor organization of what was the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD), founded in 1964, which was disbanded in 1979.
An ad hoc organization under the United Nations Charter (Chap. VIII), its common objective is to establish a single market for goods and services, much like the European Union. ECO’s secretariat and cultural department are located in Tehran, its economic bureau is in Turkey and its scientific bureau is situated in Pakistan.