In a relatively short time, Qatar has become one of the richest countries of the world thanks to its 200 years of oil and gas reserves. Much of the same happens to its neighboring Gulf States, where oil and gas have transformed forever the life of their citizens who have the highest purchasing power of the world.
This rapid transformation has brought additional health consequences to the local population. Their new lifestyle habits have prompted growing health problems to the Gulf citizens with obesity and diabetes leading the list. Research and development in health areas is still at early stages and the local health industry is not yet up to standards.
For that reason, every year governments of all Gulf States spend millions sending their patients to international hospitals for treatment. Although Germany and the US have traditionally been the preferred medical destinations, Spain is starting to shine on its own merits.
Spain´s state of the art health and tourism infrastructure and highly qualified professionals increasingly attract Gulf nationals that prefer to travel to a country with a splendid weather to get their surgery or treatment done and stay there for their rehab period in pleasant spas.
Gulf States hospitals are also increasingly searching for strategic alliances with hospitals in Spain to send their patients there or to bring visiting or permanent Spanish doctors.
Spain has realized of the potential of a growing health tourism industry and wants to tap in the sector starting with the creation of SpainCares, an initiative that combines both private and public health centers as well as hotels, spas and rehab centers. SpainCares wants to double actual figures in the next four years to reach 200,000 health visitors and €1,000 million turnover.
Spain is currently the Seventh global health tourism destination but the new partnership was born to bring it to the top three positions by relying on the potential of the Spanish private health care system that offer top quality at competitive prices in a nicer environment. Nowadays, the United States holds a market share of 51% in health tourism while Europe comes second with 42%..
According to SpainCares cluster, calculations suggest that an average of 100,000 foreign patients visit Spain each year for health reasons. Globally, the sector boast a revenue forecast of 120,000 million euros for 2015.
Millions of people, usually with high purchasing power, travel each year to receive health treatments, wellness, prevention, diagnosis or rehabilitation and are part of a sector that has averaged an annual growth of 20%.
According to OECD data, about nine million people come to Europe every year for medical treatment. By 2020 it is expected that health tourism in Europe will grow by 90%, especially in countries that are committed to health tourism at competitive prices, as the countries of Eastern Europe (Hungary, Turkey, Czech Republic, Poland and including Malta) and those who compete by offering quality tourism, such as the UK and Germany.
Spain is a privileged destination for health tourism with a renowned health system, elite professionals, state of the art equipment and latest techniques. The country´s quality of life indicators also stand at the top of the global lists thanks to its tradition, culture and food. Spain has also positioned itself year after year as the third tourist destination in the world. However, poor health tourism marketing, promotion absence or lack of a health culture in the tourist agents are some of the reasons that are holding back the sector´s development.
Spain´s competitive edge is based on an excellent service at good prices, factors that combine with a mild Mediterranean climate throughout the year, substantially important in periods of post-operative rehabilitation, and one of the healthiest but tasty cuisines.
Most patients that reach Spanish health centers come from Russia or Arab countries but also from UK, Germany or the Scandinavian countries that cater for Spanish specialties in ophthalmology, oncology, cardiology, bariatric and metabolic surgery, neurosurgery and a growing market for cosmetic surgery.
The main centers of health tourism in Spain are in Madrid, Barcelona, Mallorca, Málaga, Asturias, Navarra, Alicante and Canary Islands.