Iran draws a record 600,000 medical travelers in four months

July 30, 2019 - 19:10

TEHRAN – Iran hosted a record high of nearly 600,000 medical travelers during the first four months of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21-July 21), nearly equal to the figure for the whole past year (March 2018-19), according to an Iranian association for the health tourism promotion.

People from the Persian Gulf littoral states, Iraq and Syria as well as Iranian expatriates residing in Canada and Germany constituted the majority of medical travelers to the Islamic Republic, who received plastic, cosmetic, open-heart and orthopedic surgeries amongst other treatments, said Mohammad Panahi, a deputy for the association, Donya-ye Eqtesad reported on Tuesday.

Depreciation of Iranian rial against foreign currencies has been the main reason for the increase because it has lowered costs of traveling to Iran much more, he explained.

Iranian currency has lost almost three-quarters of its value from last November, when the Trump administration reinstated sanctions on the Islamic Republic, mainly the ones that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Medical tourism fetched Iran some $1.2 billion last year, Panahi said, adding that the figure has increased by 20-30 percent in the first four months of this year.

Many domestic experts say that medical tourism in Iran produces win-win outcomes as the country yields considerable benefits to international health-care seekers, offering affordable yet quality treatment services.

Iranian hospitals admitted nearly 70,000 foreign patients over the last year, according to the medical tourism department at the Ministry of Health.

In April 2018, the rotating presidency of the International Health Tourism Conference of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) was handed to the Islamic Republic for a three-year term.

Mohammad Jahangiri who presides over a national center for developing health tourism said in May 2018 that Iran has the capacity to annually earn $7 billion in medical and health tourism, though the sector now brings in only one-seventh or even lesser of the sum.

A total of 169 hospitals which have the necessary permits, admit foreign patients in Iran, according to Saeid Hashemzadeh, the head of medical tourism department at the Ministry of Health.

Some 90% of foreign patients in Iran are from Afghanistan, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and other countries around the Persian Gulf, Hashemzadeh said on July 21.

The Islamic Republic has set its goals to exceed its yearly medical travelers to around 2 million in [calendar year] 1404 (March 2025-March 2026).


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