Medical Tourism in Tunisia and Morocco

Introduction

The globe right now is seeing a new trend of tourism–medical tourism. Medical tourism, also known as health tourism is now increasing in popularity in all parts of the globe. Medical tourism was originally initiated in South America. Travel agencies and different tour operators are the ones who thought about this idea.

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Medical tourism’s goal is to offer foreign clients a two-in-one experience. Packages include a medical act and a travel and tour package. This two-in-one formula makes it attractive for clients who want to have their body parts done and at the same time have an experience of a lifetime. The whole package is 40% to 60% cheaper compared to a medical act that is done in posh countries in North America or Europe. Furthermore, the tag price, aside from the medical act itself, is already inclusive of some allowances for a tour in the area during the recovery time.

Factors for the Development of the Medical Tourism Industry

The development of the medical tourism industry is mainly attributed to five separate phenomena. First is the difference in the cost of living between countries. These phenomena permit less developed countries to decrease the cost of medical care and treatments. This gives them an advantage over more advanced countries.

Another factor for the development of the medical tourism industry is the differences in the availability of the infrastructures to accommodate all patients who seek medical care. For example, a British citizen would most likely do not want to be put on the waiting list for surgery, thus he or she can just go to another country for that specific operation.

The differences between the medical laws, rules, and regulations between countries also helped in the development of the medical tourism industry. Some countries require medical practitioners to pay insurance fees; in turn, the practitioners charge the increased cost to their clients. This practice makes the cost of medical acts in that country much more expensive. Other countries have laws that prohibit certain medical activities like abortion or sterilization. Due to this law, citizens of this specific country that prohibits such medical acts tend to look for other places that can give them the operation they needed.

Globalization of goods and services provided less restriction on borders between countries. This allowed practitioners from a country to perform consultations with the clients from another country and then perform the operation of the medical act in a third country.

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Lastly, the internet has done a great role in the development and dissemination of information regarding the available health care and medical acts available in a country. The internet has also been used in sharing views and comments regarding medical issues. Because of this, potential clients are now well informed on which countries offer a particular kind of medical act.

Thousands of pounds are saved on medical procedures as Europeans like Britons and French people take advantage of the quick expanse of the medical tourism industry. Cosmetic surgery, dentistry, or other surgeries, patients especially those who want to save precious money, opt to travel to other countries because it is relatively less expensive there. Europeans enjoy the medical tourism packages even more because aside from the savings in the medical treatment they had, they can also enjoy a great vacation.

Given the savings that patients can have on medical treatments done abroad, plus the concern of catching a superbug like MRSA in a hospital and the inconvenience of having to wait in the long lines of patients, it is not surprising that most people now choose to go to other countries that offer medical tourism packages. (treatmentabroad.net)

The cheap price of medical treatment in countries like Tunisia and Morocco is absolutely an advantage. Murray of the Financial Times (October 1, 2003) reported that managers of private clinics in Tunisia and Morocco aggressively lowered the prices of the treatments covered by medical tourism to keep the patients coming back to them.

In few countries like Tunisia and Morocco, medical tourism is already becoming a big business. According to an article written by Choe Sang-Hun in the New York Times, by the year 2010, more than 6 million Americas are most likely to go to other countries just to get medical treatment. As patients find ways in looking for less expensive surgical or other cosmetic procedures, medical tourism is on the rise.

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Medical Tourism in Tunisia

Tunisia is a great destination for medical tourism because it is located on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. It is bordered by Algeria in the West and Libya in the southeast. The country is proud to have 700 miles of beautiful sandy beaches. Half of the country is covered by the Saharan desert, which makes it more enticing. The country also has a very interesting ancient history. Tunisia is a country with a very stylish and relaxed atmosphere. It also has a good reputation for cosmetic surgery. Right now, it is steadily increasing media mileage all around the world through Sky TV and BBC World. In addition to that, the country’s climate is very conducive to a great vacation. The country is only two and a half-hour of flight away from the United Kingdom.

The cosmetic clinics and plastic surgery clinics are being regulated by the Tunisian Ministry of Health. The private clinics have all the latest technology and they also have English-speaking staff. The investment efforts made by the government in the training and development of equipment for both the public and private health areas helped in creating a competitive advantage for the medical tourism industry of the country. The cost of medical treatments in the country is very competitive with those of its counterparts in the United Kingdom. A hospital in the United Kingdom charges 3,000 to 4,000 euros for a rhinoplasty. Tunisian clinics offer the same service for only 1,260 euros. A facelift that normally costs a client an amount ranging from 4,500 to 6,000 euros can also be done in Tunisia for only 2,400 euros.

The official language of Tunisia is Arabic, but at the same time, French and English are also spoken in all tourist destinations. Tunisian climate is basically the Mediterranean. It has hot and dry summers and mild winters. In the southern part of the country, it can get as hot as 45 degrees Celsius or more. The Autumn days are the best time to visit the country because it is less busy since the tourists that came for the summer have already departed. The winter climate in the country is also desirable. Temperature ranges from 18 to 20 degrees Celsius.

Tunisia in particular is gradually creating a name in the medical tourism industry especially in the field of plastic surgery. The nearness of Tunisia to Europe gives it an advantage over other medical tourism hubs like India and Thailand. Most clinics based in Tunisia offer packages that include a vacation in its beautiful beach and a therapy.

Tunisia’s medical tourism industry is relatively small when compared to other medical tourism destinations like India, Thailand, and Singapore. On the other hand, the advantage of Tunisia over these countries is its proximity to the UK and the rest of Europe. Europeans who are looking for cheaper medical treatment but without long traveling time opt to visit Tunisia. Furthermore, the country is also a popular destination during the warm summer. This makes the country more alluring to patients who want a nice North African vacation and a globally competitive medical treatment.

At present, cosmetic surgery is the country’s forefront service. Aside from cosmetic surgery, different dental treatments are also available. Other major medical procedures are not yet available in the country through the prices here are much cheaper than in Western countries and also even with countries with medical tourism industries.

The Ministry of Health of the Tunisian Republic is the agency responsible for ensuring the quality and regulating the cosmetic and plastic surgery industry in the country. Furthermore, the competition in the industry drives the different establishments to seek development especially in the use of the latest equipment and employing the best specialist and staff that are available.

Most of the private clinics preserve good relationships with travel companies, hotels, and resorts so that they can provide the visitors with the perfect mix of medical treatment and vacation. The tourism infrastructure of Tunisia has been developed before; this makes it a potential place for the next big medical tourism destination (DiscoverMedicalTourism.com)

Today, Tunisia boasts to have almost 80 private clinics that can accommodate a total of 2500 clients. The majority of these clinics are highly developed and are well equipped with the newest technologies. The country also has more than 8000 qualified doctors who are all fully recognized in the medical industry across Europe. Furthermore, Tunisian clinics strictly comply with all the medical standards imposed in the region. Because of this profile, a lot of Europeans, including Brits, Italians, Germans, French, and other Europeans are drawn to Tunisia for the medical acts they needed.

There has been a significant increase in the number of foreign clients who chose to be treated in Tunisian private clinics. In fact, in 2003, 42,000 patients have been recorded as medical tourists, four years later, the number almost double to 83,000 patients. These figures are provided by the Ministry of Public Health of Tunisia.

Almost 80% of the patients that went to Tunisia came from Maghrebian countries. The remaining percentage is citizens of Western Europe and the other remaining percentage came all the way from countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Generally, most of the foreign patients who came to Tunisia had their specialized surgical operations there. Most of these operations are associated with the fields of gynecology, ophthalmology, and cardiology. Other patients also had operations in the field of orthopedics and urology.

The good image and reputation of the doctors in Tunisia especially in the fields of cosmetic surgery, ophthalmology, orthopedic and orthodontic engrossed other Europeans in the medical treatments offered in Tunisia. The treatments mentioned are most of the time not covered nor reimbursed by the health care insurances in other European countries that are why patients go out of the way just to have treatments that are more competitive and equally effective.

Normally, a cervical-facial lifting done in France will cost the patient around 5000 euros. In Tunisia, the same operation can be done at the cost of only 2500 euros. Because of these price differences, the same quality of service attracts Europeans to come to Tunisia. Generally, the prices of operations and treatments done in Tunisia are 40% to 60% cheaper than a patient has to pay for the same services done in Western Countries. Furthermore, what makes it even more attractive is that a one week stay in the country is already inclusive at the already cheap price

Just recently, a law was passed in Tunisia that permits foreign individuals and businesses to purchase or build property in the country’s territory. Due to the fact that the figure for the number of medical tourists who visit the country is increasing, a lot of projects are in the process. Right now, a land that covers 50,000 hectares or 124,000 acres of marshland just north of Tunis is being transformed into a lakeside town that will house different health spas. This area will be called “Bled Al Ward” or The Country of Roses. The project is being developed by the Al Malabar group of companies. (Chirurgiepro.net)

The government of Tunisia would like to tap the medical tourist market that has been expanding recently. The Tunisian government knows that the beautiful and breathtaking scenery of the Tunisian land can attract many visitors including medical tourists. An article in tourism-review.com reported that the Republic of South Africa is currently the largest provider of foreign patients for medical care. The same article, it quoted Slim Ben Yeder, the manager of the Soukra Clinic based in Tunisia, saying that number of European people that visit Tunisia for medical surgery has increased. Yeder predicted that Tunisia can be a potential medical tourism hub. The medical tourism industry can inject a lot of cash into the Tunisian economy. Yeder said that a conventional tourist only spends an average of 300 to 400 euros each day of his or her stay in the country. On the other hand, a tourist who goes to the country for treatment would be spending 2,500 to 4,000 euros at least during his or her stay.

It should be noted that medical tourism in the Republic of Tunisia is only starting. In the year 2005, only 500 foreign medical tourists came to Tunisia to perform medical surgeries and most of these surgeries are for cosmetic acts. Indeed, it is incomparable to other well-developed and well-established medical tourism hubs such as Thailand, Singapore, or India but Tunisian medical tourism is steadily growing. As long as the reputation of the medical infrastructure and medical practitioners in Tunisian remain positive, the potential of transforming Tunisia into a main medical tourism hub is highly probable. Furthermore, of course, the price advantage is definitely still there.

Another attractive medical act that is available in Tunisia is the so-called Thalassotherapy. It is some sort of a homeopathic treatment that involves the use of seawater. This was originally developed in France during the 19th century. This treatment makes use of seawater, warmed into a particular temperature, and also application of mud which includes algae. Other treatments of this kind also use sea fog and let the patient inhale it. It is believed that this therapy is useful for patients who have hypertension, bronchitis, arthritis, and muscle atrophy. On the other hand, there is not yet a scientific study that proves the claim of this therapy. Nonetheless, the therapy is still absolutely relaxing (tourism-review.com)

Medical Tourism in Morocco

The Kingdom of Morocco is strategically located North of Africa, in the Mediterranean region. It has Algeria in the East and is bordered by Spain in the North. The kingdom covers an area of only 447,000 square kilometers. The capital is Rabat and Casablanca is the largest city. The climate in the kingdom is the Mediterranean. The official language in the country is Arabic. French and Spanish are also used by a wide population. English is also becoming the second language in the kingdom, especially for the educated youth.

An increase in the demand for cosmetic surgery has been observed in Morocco. This is mainly attributed to the obsession of the Moroccan people for physical perfection. The prices for such plastic surgery differ from one clinic to another, but the price tag is still relatively cheap. Bargaining for the price of surgery can take place between the doctor and the patient themselves. Liposuction treatment in Morocco can range from 10,000 to 40,000 dirhams.

The media, especially the television has contributed so much in promoting the available procedures that Moroccan clinics offer. This resulted in a rapid increase in the volume of people who want to have plastic surgery. Furthermore, the prices for plastic surgery dropped significantly that in turn allowed people from all walks of life to afford a service that was once originally associated only with rich people. The number of people who wanted to have liposuction done has doubled in the past few years. This still occurred despite the stigma associated with the dangers of having liposuction done. Morocco can be considered as one of the growing hubs for medical tourism specifically for plastic surgeries. This can be attributed to the low prices and the secrecy of being in another country.

In spite of the publicized dangers of having liposuction, the medical tourism industry in Morocco is hardly stirred. Different university hospitals such as Rabat and Casablanca have taken action in order to deal with this concern. Furthermore, plastic and cosmetic surgery centers are established, as well as cosmetic dermatology centers. More medical specialists are also being trained for the purpose of providing the smaller towns and other rural areas with cosmetic surgery services. It should be noted that training programs for these medical specialists include emphasizing educating the patient about the possible healthcare risks associated with a specific cosmetic procedure. (Tourahi, 2009)

Vision3, an alliance between three companies, Gulf Finance House, Ithmaar Bank, and Abu Dhabi Investment House, is developing a project with the Moroccan government with a deal worth $1.8 billion mixed-use health resort. The project will be constructed in a 270-hectare area in Essouira.

The project is aimed to promote and develop the health and wellness industry in the Kingdom of Morocco. At the same time, the project will also develop the health tourism, commercial and residential sectors of the Kingdom of Morocco.

Furthermore, the strategic project will also help in creating new jobs for the Moroccans and will eventually lead to the development of the country as a whole (Trade Arabia News Service)

Bibliography

“Medical Tourism in Tunisia”. Discover Medical Tourism. 2008. Web.

“Vision3 to develop $1.8bn Morocco health resort. Trade Arabia News Service”. 2009. Web.

ChirurgiePro.net. “Medical tourism in Tunisia”. 2009. Web.

Lagace, Martha “The Rise of Medical Tourism”, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, 2007.

Murray, Sarah. “RISK MANAGEMENT: Tourism seeks safeguards against troubled times: TRAVEL AND HOSPITALITY: Health scares, wars and terrorism can shut down holiday resorts, writes Sarah Murray.” The Financial Times (2003): 6. General OneFile. Gale. University of South Alabama (AVL). Web.

Sang-Hun, Choe. (2008). South Korea Joins Lucrative Practice of Inviting Medical Tourists to Its Hospitals. Web.

Tourahi, Sarah. (2009). “Cosmetic Surgery Boom Hits Morocco,” Magharebia, The News & Views of the Maghreb. Web.

tourism-review.com. “Tunisia : A New Medical Tourism Destination”. Web.

Treatment Abroad. “Medical tourism saves you thousands, but do your research”. Web.

Zijlma, Anouk. (2008). Scalpel Safari – Medical tourism in Africa. Web.

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