Iceland struggles to finance health tourism projects

Plans by Chinese investors CSST International to contribute up to 44 million Euros to the development of a health village in Flúðir, South Iceland, have fallen through. Financing projects in health tourism in Iceland has been difficult with two other projects failing to launch.

The Flúðir project was launched in 2008, assuming a village of 200 apartments, service buildings, pools and a rehabilitation centre where more than 100 people were to be employed. The plans were downscaled after the Icelandic banks collapsed. The project’s leader Árni Gunnarsson is still hopeful and seeking other investors, but funding is hard to find. PrimaCare’s private hospital in Mosfellsbær and Nordic Health Pro’s private hospital in Reykjanesbær, are both still seeking funding.

PrimaCare hoped for a hospital in Mosfellsbær where medical travellers could have joint replacements. Nordic Health Pro was planning a private hospital in Reykjanesbær, hoping to fly in patients from abroad, but both projects have been stalled for several years and may never happen.

PrimaCare was founded in June 2008 to develop, build, operate, and market a state-of-the-art medical resort destination in Iceland. The hospital model integrates a surgical specialty hospital with an elegant boutique-style hotel and after-care facility. Located just outside of Reykjavik, Mosfellsbaer is 45-minutes from the international airport, and is a green and health-focused community.

The Chinese contractor for Flúðir Spa, Smart Cities International is a specialist in environmentally sustainable projects. The company works in close cooperation with the Chinese government and employs 8000 people. The idea was for the health village to be marketed in China. The number of Chinese tourists visiting Iceland has increased but it is still only 7000 a year.

The planned hospitals in Reykjanesbaer and Mosfellsbaer both plan specialized surgery and treatment, joint replacement, and other specialist services.

Patients are flown in from Greenland and Faroe Islands to the Landspítali national hospital in Reykjavík in accordance with agreements with the authorities in those countries. But attracting private patients from abroad is not easy.

One completed project, the dental implant clinic Nordic Smile in a glass tower by the Reykjavík seaside, used local and Swedish dentists. Attempts to contact the clinic failed, with website suggestions that it has closed down.

The Association for Health Tourism in Iceland still feels that in the longer term, there are opportunities for private hospitals.
Iceland has a reputation for outdoor bathing, exercising, rehabilitation and a healthy lifestyle, but translating that to health-related tourism is proving difficult.