Medical Tourism Dips Due to Mismanagement

Fraudulent activity in the field of health tourism has led to a drop in medical tourist arrivals
There is a renewed determination within ICHHTO to organize the medical tourism industry.
There is a renewed determination within ICHHTO to organize the medical tourism industry.
Foreigners are advised against making independent medical trips to Iran and directed toward certified tour operators

The number of medical tourists to Iran has declined in the first half of the current fiscal year (started March 21) due to the lack of organized services that led to fraudulent activities in the sector, Iran's top tourism authority said.

Not providing figures for the decline, Ali Asghar Mounesan, the head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, regretted this development in the industry, which has caused widespread dissatisfaction among tourists.

"At one point, the country received an influx of health tourists but the activities of illegal middlemen led to unpleasant incidents," he told ISNA.

These dealers, for instance, received several times more money than the actual cost of a medical treatment by a well-known specialist but referred them to another doctor lacking the expertise or experience. Mounesan blamed it both on ICHHTO and the Health Ministry for the lack of order in health tourism.  The official pointed to the organization's renewed determination to organize the highly profitable sector.

"The tourism department has been tasked with assigning several travel agencies with the responsibility of undertaking health trips and exerting control over such activities," he said.

Tourism officials are also organizing a trip to Iraq, the main source of health tourists to Iran, to ask them to advise their citizens against making independent trips to Iran for medical purposes and to travel only through reliable tour operators introduced by ICHHTO.

"Travel agencies operating under the supervision of ICHHTO are required to provide services in proportion with the amount of money they receive," he said.  

Mohammad Jahangiri, the head of the International Healthcare Association, had earlier told YJC that an organized system of medical services to tourists will help combat fraud and prevent abuse.

"Iran is facing intense competition from Turkey, India and Jordan in health tourism and to beat its rivals, it must reduce costs and improve the quality of services," he said, adding that the development of medical tourism will eventually help improve services for Iranian nationals as well.

According to Jahangiri, 163 hospitals across Iran are currently offering medical services to foreigners.

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