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Turkey spreads its wings with medical tourism

Turkish medical tourism flourishes

Hair Implant With Your Ski Trip? Turkish Tourism Branches Out

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April 4, 2013 9:56 by



ECONOMIC DIVIDEND

Growth has already been phenomenal, said Tolga Umar, chief executive of Visit and Care, a patient and doctor matching service which helps visitors from the Middle East and Europe.

“We’ve been matching patients and doctors for six years now. Back then there were few other players, but now hospitals have international patient management departments doing direct marketing,” he said.

“Even tour operators ask prior to a visit whether you want to have a dental exam or corrective eye surgery.”

Boosting tourism revenues is key to keeping a lid on Turkey’s current account deficit, which narrowed to around 6 percent of GDP in 2012 from roughly 10 percent in 2011. Net tourism receipts reached $21.6 billion last year, while the current account deficit stood at $47 billion.

Turkey is the world’s sixth top destination by tourist arrivals, according to the World Tourism Organization, but it may require strategies such as the medical tourism drive to maintain that status.

“Decreasing prices in Greece and Spain since the debt crisis mean that the competition for tourists is more intense,” said tourism consultant Fehmi Kofteoglu.

Timur Bayndr, head of Turkey’s TUROB tourism industry association, said: “What the industry needs is alternative tourism channels like medical and shopping tourism.”

That could mean men with red dots on their heads – a tell-tale sign of freshly implanted follicles – becoming a more common sight as they stroll through Istanbul’s designer malls, snapping up a last few purchases at the end of their medical tours.



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