Turkey spreads its wings with medical tourism
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April 4, 2013 9:56 by Reuters
The government aims to double medical tourist numbers to half a million a year over the next two years and raise revenues to $7 billion by attracting them to higher-margin healthcare.
“We see Turkey as a prime destination for medical tourism,” said Dursun Aydin, head of the international patients department at the Health Ministry. “We have experienced doctors. Hospitals are new…Turkey is relatively inexpensive and the temperate climate helps too.”
TAX-FREE HEALTH ZONES
The phenomenon is a boon not only for Turkey’s tourism industry, which risks locking itself into a price war with rival destinations such as Greece and Spain, but also for its booming private healthcare industry.
Parliament passed new regulations in February to make private investment in the healthcare sector easier, a move it hopes could unlock billions of dollars of investment over the next few years.
Private equity investors favour Turkey’s fast-growing services industries, including healthcare and education, because of a near tripling of nominal, per capita gross domestic product over the past decade and a young population of 75 million.
Foreign institutions including Malaysia’s state investment arm Khazanah Nasional, U.S. private equity firm Carlyle, emerging markets investor ADM Capital, Qatar’s First Investment Bank and the World Bank’s International Finance Corp (IFC) have put money into the Turkish healthcare sector.
Turkey’s status as a medical tourism destination could add to the allure. Though the idea is still on the drawing board, the government is considering airport-accessible, tax-free health zones which would aim to attract up to 85 percent of their patients from abroad, while offering tax incentives for investors.
Under the new law passed in February, which facilitates public-private partnerships, the state will rent city hospitals built and run by the private sector for 25 years.
“The aim is to revitalise ageing hospitals. While built primarily for Turkish citizens, they’ll be luxuriously equipped and will aim to draw at least some of their customers from abroad,” said the Health Ministry’s Aydin.