Tourism has been a key driver of the economy in most countries across the globe. The industry remains a leading foreign exchange earner as the number of people seeking to travel outside their home countries grows.
In Kenya for example, the industry is rated second after agricultural exports. This year alone, it has earned Sh82 billion from a low of Sh56.7 billion in 2010.
The quest to grow tourism revenues has compelled industry players to adopt more creative marketing strategies to attract even high numbers of visitors. They have taken every opportunity with seriousness, devising new products and services, as the demands of travellers change.
Markets that have traditionally focused on historical attractions, sun and sand and wildlife have developed alternative product ranges to meet this new demand. The changes made are opening up of more circuits, increased bed capacity and opened up of tourism niches including medical and academic tourism.
Medical tourism, though familiar in the West and Asia, is considered new in some African countries. The sector is currently witnessing a boom in the number of individuals seeking affordable and better health care services. Kenyans are among them. Indeed, Kenya has this year alone sent more medical tourists to India than any other African country.
The professionalism of the medical practitioners abroad, coupled with high-end technology and equipment are factors that attract patients and more referrals. India for instance observes high degree of medical standards when it comes to attending to patients. For instance, a patient seeking treatment there is assigned five medical professionals; a doctor, nutritionist, nurse, pharmacist and a specialty doctor. Most of the countries sending patients to hospitals in places like India are yet to meet the internationally recommended ratio of one doctor for every 1,000 patients. The recommendation was made by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Stringent laws in medical practice and education standards have also offered a solid foundation for medical tourism.
Diagnosed with cancer
The fact that 99 per cent of patients who have sought treatment abroad have come back home hale and healthy, is one that has continued to earn praises and trust. Picture the dwindling hopes of an individual diagnosed with cancer who is often give a six per cent chance of survival. After weighing the options, many such patients decide to seek a second opinion abroad. And their decisions more often than not turns out right.
Suffice it to say that medical tourism is not only an industry that has seen an increase in international arrivals, but has also given a second chance at enjoying life to millions of individuals the world over. The more important economic contribution is that it boosts human resource levels in the countries of patient origin and lowers the chances of families losing breadwinners.
But Kenya does not have to be a net exporter of medical tourists. By learning from the Indian experience, it can improve its health sector and become first a regional centre for medical services before expanding to offer its expertise to the rest of Africa and the globe. This will not only improve the health of the nation but also lead to a considerable rise in international arrivals, which is good for the economy.
Source: All Africa.Com – 30 Dec 2011