Qom holds potential to become medical tourism destination

October 24, 2021 - 17:29

TEHRAN – Medical tourism is planned to be facilitated and promoted in the central province of Qom after the coronavirus crisis is over, the provincial tourism chief has announced. 

In the post-coronavirus era, foreign tourists will require medical services that are different from the past, and it is necessary to make the needed arrangements to meet these requirements, CHTN quoted Alireza Arjmandi as saying on Saturday.
Arab states of the Persian Gulf are interested in visiting Iran and in particular, the holy city of Qom, which presents a good opportunity to plan health tourism, the official added.

Expo 2020 Dubai, which is currently underway in the UAE, also offers a great chance to promote Qom as a destination for medical tourism, he noted. 

Considering the province’s capacity in health care, the expo is an excellent opportunity for marketing health tourism, he said. 

Back in September, the official announced that a number of handicrafts masters and artisans from Qom are planning to participate at the Dubai Expo.

During the expo, artisans will showcase their works in the fields of handmade rings, miniatures, statues, and wood carving through live performances, he mentioned.

It is also an opportunity for Sohan producers, the most famous souvenir of the province, to reach the required market with the proper packaging and quality, as well as live baking of Sohan during the expo, the official explained.

Sohan is traditional saffron brittle toffee, which is mainly produced in the city of Qom. Made from flour, sugar, wheat sprout, egg yolks, butter, rose water, saffron, cardamom, and slivered pistachios or almonds, Sohan comes in different shapes, flavors, and qualities and is distributed across the country. 

Qom has been designated as the national city of handmade rings as almost 1,200 crafters and artisans are active in the production of handmade jewelry and rings in workshops across the province.

The semi-precious stone mines, which are scattered across the province, are also one of Qom’s potentials to be developed in this field of handicrafts. Besides domestic travelers, foreign tourists, who are mostly from Arab countries and the Persian Gulf littoral states, are traditionally the main customers of these handmade products.

The second-holiest city of the country after Mashhad, Qom is home to both the magnificent shrine of Hazrat-e Masumeh (SA) and the major religious madrasas (schools). Apart from sightseers and pilgrims who visit Qom to pay homage at the holy shrine, the city is also a top destination for Shiite scholars and students who come from across the world to learn Islamic studies at its madrasas and browse through eminent religious bookshops.

The antiquity of Qom goes back to the Sassanid era (224 CE–651) and several historical mosques, mansions, and natural sceneries have been scattered across the city as well as towns and villages nearby.

Medical tourism in Iran

The developing health tourism industry is one of the most important fields of Iran’s travel sector, which is trying to prove its capabilities and capacities in attracting medical and health tourists to the country.

Many domestic experts believe that medical tourism in Iran is a win-win opportunity both for the country and foreign patients, as they are offered affordable yet quality treatment services and the country gains considerable foreign currency.

Iran’s two most popular medical tourist cities are Tehran and Mashhad, but the coronavirus outbreak has significantly reduced the number of travelers.

Iran is one of the major destinations for health tourism in the region, and patients with 55 different nationalities, mostly from neighboring countries including Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan are seeking to use Iran’s services and facilities in this field.

Iranian hospitals admitted nearly 70,000 foreign patients over the Iranian calendar year 1397 (March 2018 – March 2019) and it made an economic contribution of around $1.2 billion to the country, 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 can annually earn $7 billion in medical and health tourism, though the sector now brings in only one-seventh or even lesser of the sum.

The Islamic Republic has set its goals to exceed its yearly medical travelers to around 2 million in the Iranian calendar year 1404.

Expo 2020, an opportunity to promote Iran’s tourism, handicrafts

The Expo 2020 Dubai opened on September 30 with a lavish ceremony of fireworks, music, and messaging about the power of global collaboration for a more sustainable future.

Iran’s pavilion in the world fair is planned to showcase each Iranian province’s strengths and assets in tourism, cultural heritage, handicrafts, as well as its natural sites, traditional ceremonial practices, and historical significance.

Many countries and companies are also looking to the expo - the first major global event open to visitors since the coronavirus pandemic - to boost trade and investment.

According to organizers, the Expo, an exhibition of culture, technology, and architecture under the banner “Connecting Minds and Creating the Future”, is expected to be a demonstration of ingenuity, and a place where global challenges such as climate change, conflict, and economic growth can be addressed together.

The Persian Gulf state has relaxed most coronavirus limitations but Expo requires face masks to be worn and for visitors over 18 to be vaccinated against, or test negative for, COVID-19.

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 26 are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.