7 June 2017

The Pan-African Health Tourism Congress

The 2017 Pan-African Health Tourism Congress hosted in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, this June creates a much-needed platform to discuss the interests and needs of health tourism stakeholders in Africa. It aims to address the issues of investment, development and promotion with regards to destinations, providers and services. The congress will also address the key issues of education, internships, career paths and employment opportunities in the health tourism sector.

HOW HEALTH TOURISM IS STIMULATING THE PAN-AFRICAN ECONOMY

South Africa has always been at the forefront of cutting-edge medical procedures. It has a history of excellence in healthcare as well as healthcare innovation, and over the years the country has emerged as a serious contender in the health tourism industry, one of the fastest growing tourism trends. Yet, it should be said that health tourism in South Africa is a relatively new concept and even though it is gaining momentum in South Africa, it is not yet properly organised, hence the need to create a platform for open discussion.

Therefore the keynote message for the congress is to make a point of bringing together the de facto leaders of the eight health tourism segments, the sector-supporting industries and government to analyse the most pressing and challenging issues facing the health tourism sector – with regards to knowledge, policy and strategy.

WHAT IS HEALTH TOURISM?

Health Tourism is travelling, usually abroad, for the express purpose of seeking specific medical treatment for an existing illness or in search of overall wellbeing, be it physical, mental or social in order to maintain or revive oneself.

South Africa is well positioned to play a significant role within this global industry given its pioneering role in the medical field, access to highly trained doctors, excellent medical care supported by world-class facilities, and one of the world’s fastest growing tourism industries in the world. This combination sets South Africa up as the perfect destination for this type of tourism.

WHAT’S IT WORTH TO SOUTH AFRICA

There are vast opportunities for health tourism on the African continent and it is becoming essential to create a Pan-African platform for engagement and sharing of ideas amongst all the parties in the industry value chain. The global health tourism industry is valued at $20 billion per year, with nearly seven million patients annually travelling across the world to seek healthcare. South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Mauritius have emerged as the clear frontrunners in Africa with South Africa gaining a reputation as the destination of choice. Furthermore, South Africa has a sophisticated, well developed and organised tourism industry that competes comfortably with some of the best tourism destinations in the world, especially regarding the provision of recuperation facilities.

EXPECTED CONGRESS OUTCOMES

  • Medical tourism – economic aspects, additional incentives to attract foreign patients.
  • Public/private sector participation and collaboration.
  • Impact on the development of SMMEs in South Africa given the exposure to the market.
  • National Health Insurance (NHI) – how savings from medical tourism can be used to finance or subsidise NHI.
  • Unleashing the economic contribution of the healthcare sector.
  • Technology and innovation, growth and development to carter for a multi-speed world.
  • Skills development and best practice.

This coordinated approach to the health tourism industry will address some of the key challenges that include: the lack of coordination in and formalisation of the industry, which can assist in educating the market; appropriately marketing the opportunities provided by this industry; and coordinating the seamless provision of services from the health to the tourism industry to provide a seamless and stress-free experience for visitors.

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