Officials suggest that between 5,000 to 6,000 unlicensed medical tour leaders are now unofficially working in Iran’s North Eastern city and top health tourism destination, Mashhad. The number of licensed agencies for medical tourism is rising as well.
Mashhad hosts foreign tourists, especially Arab-speaking visitors, who mainly seek cosmetic surgery. Many of these are women seeking rhinoplasty and men for hair implant operations.
Tour leaders who are, or work for, medical travel agents often accompany them. It is thought agents are charging commissions between 10-50% of the operation cost, and in some cases make more money than the surgeons do.
Translators, travel agencies and clinics are all getting a share of the growing business.