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Medical Tourism: Its Importance and Development

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Introduction and Research Questions

The view and belief that tourists travel to different countries mainly for site seeing and pleasure is fading out given that in this recent time new forms of tourism are emerging such as sports, pilgrimage, business, medical, cultural, and many others. Thus, it is widely acknowledged that there are many complex reasons why people elect to travel (Dann, 2002).

In recent decades, the habit of individuals traveling abroad for different medical attention or issues like surgery and checkup has become a common practice, typically with marketing and promotion in media forms that are health-related to a “wellbeing” nature. However, the combination of surgery and tourism seems to be a relatively new type of nonexclusive niche tourism that promises to have significant growth over the next few years (Mugomba and Caballero-danell,2006). The increase in medical tourism is mostly due to the rise in the cost of medical care in developed countries and the degenerating quality of care in both developed and developing countries making individuals and tourists seek a better medical solution and medical care outside their home country.

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Mugomba and Caballero stated that reason for the increased levels of medical tourism may be the result of a natural progression or wellbeing pursuits within health tourism; spa resorts and hiking trips, though these may fall in the sport tourism segment as well), yoga, meditation camps and boot camps or weight-loss health farms (Mugomba and Caballero-danell,2006). Globalization and improved communication technology (Sharpley, 2003) as externalities within the global economy that may help to develop this kind of tourism since people from countries outside the hosting country, where health tourism is pursued, can access information about health treatments abroad and even consult with doctors and experts in foreign countries by video conferencing among much other such communication media.

The intent of medical tourism involves providing excellent medical treatment and welfare at a reasonable rate, enlightening the consumers or individuals about the various medical facilities obtainable in different tourism destinations.

The comprehensive aim of this research paper is to probe the effect of medical tourism on tourism destinations based on the idea of sustainability, through these research questions:

  1. What is medical tourism and how did it develop?
  2. Which impacts does medical tourism have on destinations?
  3. What are the challenges and benefits of medical tourism?

In the next chapter of this work, medical tourism will be defined and explored in a more general context with special attention to the development of medical tourism as well as the relevant trends and opportunities it has created in the globalizing world.

Medical Tourism Development

In recent decades, the possibility of medical tourism development has been provided due to globalization. As the health services have gone beyond the borders of developing countries, finally the developing countries which have specialists and medical experts have also been allowed to enter the challenging industry of medical tourism (Ghanbari et al, 2014). The increase in medical tourism is mostly due to the rise in the cost of medical care in developed countries and the quality of care in both develop and developing countries.

Concept of Medical Tourism

Medical tourism has always been in existence Medical travelers are motivated to seek care outside of their area of residence by many factors, including more advanced technology, quicker access, higher quality of care, or lower costs for care in the destination locality (Ehrbeck, Guevara, & Mango, 2008). According to Connell (2006) the term “medical tourism” involves specific medical intervention. Many people travel to other counties other than theirs in other to seek medical attention to their health issues. Tourists combine holiday and medical treatment in other to get enough rest while being treated with their various kinds of illnesses and diseases. The demand for people searching for medical care in various countries is on the increase, making medical tourism one of the rapidly growing businesses in the world.

According to Goodrich & Goodrich (1987), medical tourism is an attempt to attract tourists into a country by deliberately promoting its health care services and facilities in addition to the regular tourist amenities available in that country.

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