People, Travel

Tehran Facing Health Tourism Challenge

Tehran Facing Health Tourism Challenge
Tehran Facing Health Tourism Challenge

Tehran’s health tourism sector is undermined by the presence of unauthorized middlemen.

Intermediaries that arrange for the travel of foreign nationals seeking advanced medical care in Iran care little for the wellbeing of their clients and only seek to make a quick buck.

According to Ali Rafiei, tourism deputy at the provincial office of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, many of these unsuspecting tourists end up in homes in rundown neighborhoods in southern Tehran and receive suboptimal care, Tasnim News Agency reported.

“This makes us look bad and doesn’t paint a good picture of our medical tourism industry,” he said.

“Health tourists rarely plan their trips in detail, which gives [middlemen] the opportunity to take advantage of them once they enter Iran.”

Rafiei noted that the most effective way of thwarting intermediaries is to plan everything before traveling to Iran with authorized travel agents.

“If travel agencies provide a detailed plan for travelers, they’ll know exactly what to do when they enter the country and won’t be deceived,” he said.

The high cost of private treatment and low quality health systems in regional countries have increased demand for Iranian medical services. Those from Muslim countries are particularly attracted to Iran, as they feel safer and satisfied than in Arab or Asian countries offering similar services.

There are 270 hospitals in Iran active in medical tourism, among which, 125 centers have so far acquired official licenses from the Health Tourism Strategic Council, comprising representatives from foreign and health ministries, ICHHTO and the Islamic Republic of Iran Medical Council.

Geographical proximity, hot and cold mineral springs in various parts of the country as well as low-cost and high quality health services in the fields of fertility, stem cell, dialysis, heart surgery, cosmetic surgery and eye surgery are giving rise to new opportunities in Iran’s medical tourism—a growth industry in many countries.

Iran’s annual revenue from medical tourism is said to be between $400-500 million, which is expected to reach $2.5 billion in the foreseeable future.

According to a report earlier this year by Big Market Research, the global medical tourism market is expected to reach $143 billion by 2022.

It was reported in May that the number of tourists traveling to Iran for advanced medical attention has grown by 40% in the past five years.