Turkey’s share in health tourism will be increased

In Turkey, it is aimed to provide more personalized service, to attract more health tourists and to generate income in high potential characteristic areas such as health tourism, sports tourism, ecotourism and wellness.

According to the information obtained from the Ministry of Commerce, health tourism stands out as a sector that supports the economic sustainable development of countries and increases their competitiveness, especially in recent years.

This type of tourism has become one of the target service export sectors for Turkey, considering its return, profitability and sustainability, as well as the state and developed potential of the country’s medical sector.

According to the data of the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK), the number of tourists visiting Turkey for treatment in the 10-month period of this year was 370 thousand 335, while the income obtained was $704 million 261 thousand 29.

According to the data of the Ministry of Health, the number of foreign patients who visited the country in the 10-month period was recorded as 718 thousand 164. It is considered that the statistics presented by TURKSTAT on health tourism revenues do not show the full number of patients, since they are determined through surveys conducted at border gates.

It is envisaged that the Ministry will carry out studies to record the number of health tourists treated in the country and health tourism revenues and to measure them in a healthy way in the coming period. It is also planned to use Ministry supports for health tourism as a tool in this context.


While the expenditure per tourist in the sector is recorded as approximately $1900, it is estimated that this figure actually approaches $10 thousand.

The branches most preferred by the tourists who come to Turkey for health services are aesthetics/hair transplant, cardiac surgery, orthopedics, oncology and IVF treatment.

Considering the aging population of Europe, which is located in Turkey’s close geography, an increase in demand is expected in the future in areas such as elderly care services and thermal / well-being tourism, which are other important branches of health tourism. Considering Turkey’s resources in this context, it is considered that there is a significant potential in these areas. Studies in these areas are also carried out by the Ministry.

In order to improve the service delivery infrastructure and marketing capacities of the institutions in the country’s health tourism ecosystem, and in this context, to increase Turkey’s share in the global health tourism market, studies are continuing to update the existing supports and create new support elements in line with the demands from the sector.

While supporting activities to promote the country’s capacity and opportunities in the field of health tourism, activities in this direction are attended.

It is envisaged that more personalized and improved models will be created in high-potential areas such as health tourism, sports tourism, ecotourism, and wellness, thus attracting more health tourists and generating income.

In addition, a protocol was signed between the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in October in order to provide visa facilitation for international patients coming from abroad to receive health services in order to increase the flow of health tourists and the export of health services to the country in a sustainable manner. Within the scope of the protocol, necessary technical and organizational studies are continuing for the acceptance of “health visa” applications by the Service Exporters’ Association in December.

While the free trade agreements (STA) signed by Turkey included provisions regarding service sectors such as health tourism, the latest FTA signed with EFTA also included provisions regarding this. It is planned to take similar steps in the agreements to be signed in the future.


On the other hand, health tourism is supported within the scope of “decisions on supporting foreign exchange earning service sectors”. Support items are:

Interpreting Support: It covers the costs of interpreters employed to ensure the communication of international patients coming to healthcare institutions with healthcare personnel.

Patient Path Support: Includes transportation expenses incurred by private health institutions or airline companies that have signed a protocol with the Ministry, in case patients are brought to Turkey by plane for treatment.

Product/Service/Brand Registration-Protection Support: It covers the expenses related to the registration of the product/service abroad, the registration and protection of a domestically registered trademark abroad.

Certification Support: It includes all kinds of certification expenses incurred in order to comply with the technical legislation regarding the environment, quality and human health, and to open and operate a pre-diagnosis center and office.

Consultancy Support: In order to increase competitive advantage in international markets, expenses for consultancy services regarding marketing strategy, foreign market structure and market entry are supported.

Agency Commission Support: Includes commission payments made to agencies for bringing international patients and students in the health tourism and education sectors.

Individual Fair Participation Support: It covers the participation cost and transportation expenses of 2 representatives in case the beneficiaries/cooperation organizations participate in events such as fairs, congresses, conferences and seminars, which are included in the “Organizations to be Supported List” by the Ministry, with a stand.

National Fair Participation Support: It includes the cost of participation in events such as fairs, congresses, conferences and seminars held abroad and the transportation costs of 2 representatives.

National Fair Promotion Support: The expenses related to advertising, promotion and marketing activities of the cooperation organization or organizer authorized by the Ministry are covered.

Advertising, Promotion and Marketing Support: Includes expenses related to TV and radio, internet, printed promotion, outdoor and special promotion activities.

Overseas Unit Support: Gross rent and commission expenditures of units opened by cooperation organizations/beneficiaries directly or through their companies or branches operating abroad are supported.

Procurement Committee/Trade Committee Support: In trade and procurement committee programs, the transportation and accommodation expenses of the beneficiaries/participants and the advertising, marketing, consultancy, promotion and organization expenses related to the program are supported.

Domestic Promotion Support: It covers the expenses related to the promotion and marketing activities organized exclusively in the country with the participation of the representatives of the relevant institutions and organizations invited from abroad by the cooperation organizations.

Domestic Education Support: Expenditures for training programs held with the participation of academics/experts/relevant persons or representatives of institutions/organizations invited from abroad are covered.


Prof. Dr. Feride Bahar Isin, Faculty Member of the Department of Business Administration at Baskent University, stated that the travel motivations and expectations of health tourists have changed with the new type of coronavirus epidemic, and said that Turkey has more competitive advantage than ever before in the global health tourism market, which is measured at $100 billion.

Stating that after the global epidemic, health tourists have added health security to their preference criteria such as affordable treatment costs, high service quality, modern medical technology, and ease of access, Isin said:

“The process that has been competently and proactively managed since the beginning of the epidemic has been a critical element in repositioning Turkey as a health tourism center where health safety is possible for international patients in all aspects. After the epidemic, the prevalence of cardiovascular system diseases, cancer, COPD, obesity, and mental and addiction-related diseases increased rapidly on a global scale. The countries that will be successful in the health tourism sector after the epidemic will be those who can manage the epidemic well, minimize the security risk and focus on target countries and branches.”

At this point, Isin emphasized that it is important for all health tourism stakeholders in the public and private sectors to act in synergy by using a common mind and said, “The need for a total struggle from intermediary institutions to hospitals, public authorities, local governments and non-governmental organizations is clear. We have the competencies and potential to overwhelm all hospitals and doctors with international patients, and we have the power to turn the crisis into an opportunity.”

Source: Sabah / Translated by Irem Yildiz

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