Could Turkey hit US$3 billion from medical travel?

Turkey medical travel

Turkey hopes to see medical tourism generate revenues of US$ 3 billion as numbers rise.

Local and international businesses see potential for Turkey’s health care system linked to medical tourism.

The scope is much greater than cosmetic surgery, hair transplants, facelifts, or slimming with detox programs. Many hospital departments, such as those offering oncology, cardiology and organ transplants, are attracting foreigners from all over the world seeking treatment in the country.

While European numbers may be lower, Russian numbers are expected to increase as Turkey has air travel and is one if the few countries welcoming Russian citizens. Numbers from Israel may be affected by the state warning citizens to stay away due to intelligence (which may be true or not) over potential terrorist attacks.

According to official TURKSTAT data, 662,000 medical tourists went to Turkey in 2019 producing revenue of US$1.65 billion. Due to the pandemic in 2020, the number fell to 388,000 with revenue of US$549 million. In 2021, 642,000 medical tourists brought in US$1.49 billion. In the first quarter of 2022 there were 285,000 medical tourists producing revenue of US$332 million.

The most preferred clinical treatments by foreign patients were gynaecological diseases and birth, internal diseases, eye diseases, medical microbiology, general surgery, dentistry, orthopaedics and traumatology, infectious diseases, and ear-nose-throat.

Some local professionals argue that the TURKSTAT data on medical tourism are not accurate, saying that the state is not aware of the full medical tourism figures, which should include 750,000 hair transplants. Applying this argument then leads to an estimation in 2021 of 1.27 million medical tourists, twice the number shared by TURKSTAT.

Inbound medical travel to Turkey could now generate revenues of US$3 billion. The logic is that hair transplantation tourists each spend US$3,000, while medical tourists pay US$7,500 to US$100,000 for organ transplants and cancer treatments. The sector expects patient numbers and revenues to grow by 30-40 % in 2022.