Iran shifts gears in promoting medical tourism

Two councils, three sets of permits, a new website and health travel packages are promoting Iran’s medical tourism.To organize Iran’s medical tourism, a strategic council was set up with representatives of the health and foreign ministries, the Medical Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.

This Health Tourism Strategic Council has quickly made it clear that any hospital or clinic that offers medical services to foreigners and travel agencies that attract and organize tours for health tourists must all have official authorization from the strategic councils.

They need to obtain permits from ICHHTO, the Health Ministry and the Foreign Ministry.
98 hospitals and clinics and 14 travel companies have so far been issued health tourism permits across the country.

Iran’s Tourism Development Association has also been formed to help attract investment and get support from related government entities. The association is also responsible for promoting authorised centres and introducing them to both Iranians and foreigners.

Planned for 2017 is a health tourism service online portal to provide information and perhaps even accept bookings. Health travel packages are being prepared in cooperation with tour operators. The council is also considering educational programs for institutions keen to work in the sector. Priority is being given to border regions due to their accessibility to neighbouring countries.

Iran claims that its annual revenue from medical tourism is between $400-500 million, and in spite of all the challenges facing Iran’s travel sector, medical tourism has been one of the most profitable and stable branches, thanks to the quality medical services that draws health tourists from regional countries.

So far the potential of the sector has not been fully exploited due to lack of coordination between relevant organizations, but 2017 will change that.