MEDICAL tourism, with an estimated growth of between 15 percent and 25 percent each year globally, is an industry that tourism and medical entrepreneurs in South Africa can cash in on. This is according to Charnel Kara, tourism specialist at FNB Business.
She said research by SA Tourism showed that foreign spending on medical care in South Africa increased to R916-million in 2015, as the number of tourists originating from Europe and those coming by air from other African countries increased. Kara said travellers coming to South Africa for medical treatments do so for cost savings, South Africa’s infrastructure, medical technology, qualified and skilled doctors at an international standard, and most advantageous is the fact that the English language is widely spoken in South Africa.
Kara added that globally, medical tourism is estimated to be worth between $45-billion (about R558-billion) and $72-billion (about R892.8-billion) and it is estimated that the industry will continue to show growth of between 15 percent and 25 percent each year, making it a growth industry that medical entrepreneurs could build a business towards. She said the downstream impact of medical tourism acts as an important feed into the rest of the tourism industry as the average tourist stays in South Africa for an estimated six days. Businesses can tailor or enhance their product offering to cater to this growing demand. Tim Harris, chief executive of Wesgro, Cape Town and the Western Cape’s tourism, trade and investment agency, said although leisure remains the top motivation for travel to South Africa and the Western Cape, marginal growth can be seen in the share of tourists who visit the province specifically for medical reasons.
Harris said in 2016, 0.9 percent of the total tourist arrivals travelled for medical reasons. He said despite the marginal share of medical tourists when compared with the leisure and business segments, the medical tourism market has portrayed a steady increase in the average total foreign direct spend in South Africa, a trend which indicates a strong and consistent economic contribution to the country. Enver Duminy, chief executive of Cape Town Tourism, said there are many opportunities to boost this form of tourism and Dubai is one example of a city aggressively targeting medical tourists with its plan to attract more than half a million arrivals by 2020.