Iran ready to facilitate arrival of Afghan medical travelers: minister

June 22, 2020 - 18:24

TEHRAN – Iran is considering to make it easier for the Afghan nationals who are willing to visit the neighboring country for medical purposes, tourism minister has said.

“Afghan nationals constituted 48.8 percent of 125,000 medical travels who arrived in the country in 1398 [the Iranian colander year ended on March 19, 2020] ….. and we are ready to facilitate their arrivals,” CHTN quoted Minister of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Ali-Asghar Mounesan as saying on Monday.

Talking about obstacles that exist in the way of Afghan travelers to the country, the official noted “Health tourism for Afghan nationals is in the hands of intermediaries and brokers and most of this [issue] is due to restrictions and barriers to visa issuance by Iran.”

“For almost the past two years, Afghanistan has promised to host Iran on the technical committees form the two countries, but conditions in that country have not been set yet.” 

“In the field of medical tourism, in 1398, we registered more than 125,000 foreign patients admitted to Iranian hospitals, of which 60,600 patients, or 48.8%, were Afghan nationals.

The important point is that this number of people was not outpatients. They were referred to gynecology, obstetrics and infertility, eye, heart, and orthopedic surgery.”

Elsewhere in his remarks, the minister pointed to cultural commonalities that exist between the two nations and quality medical services in Iran as pivotal drivers for attracting Afghan people.

“Due to cultural and linguistic commonalities, Iran is a good destination for Afghan patients and, according to them, Iran serves Afghanistan’s medical tourists much better than India. Therefore, Afghanistan is both an important market for our health and medical health tourism sector and we are looking to develop it through our programs. We are trying to fertile the ground in Afghanistan [to host more travelers].”

Medical tourism fetched Iran some $1.2 billion in 2018, based on official statistics, hosting patients from the Persian Gulf littoral states, Iraq and Syria as well as Iranian expatriates residing in Canada and Germany amongst others.

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, cosmetics, open-heart, and orthopedic surgeries amongst other treatments over the past couple of years.

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. 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).

Some experts expect Iran to achieve a tourism boom after coronavirus contained, believing its impact would be temporary and short-lived for a country that ranked the third fastest-growing tourism destination in 2019.

On April 20, Iran lifted intercity travel bans days after President Hassan Rouhani unveiled a “Smart Social Distancing Initiative” as a new phase of measures to prevent the virus spread. Over the past couple of months, many countries, including Iran, imposed travel restrictions to help curb the spread of novel coronavirus. In this line, incoming and outgoing flights have been suspended, and road travels restricted to a great extent.

The latest available data show eight million tourists visited the Islamic Republic during the first ten months of the past Iranian calendar year (started March 21, 2019).

Iran expects to reap a bonanza from its numerous tourist spots such as bazaars, museums, mosques, bridges, bathhouses, madrasas, mausoleums, churches, towers, and mansions, of which 24 being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Under the 2025 Tourism Vision Plan, it aims to increase the number of tourist arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025.

AFM/MG

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