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Health tourism will reach 200,000 visitors in 2020, says the president of SpainCares, in FITUR

Health tourism in Spain generated revenues of over €600 million in 2018, with 140,000 incoming visitors, explained David Medina, president of SpainCares, in this interview. He says that Spain’s position in international markets is getting better every year, although there is still much to be done, and this leads him to be optimistic about growth expectations for the coming years. He expects 200,000 visitors and €1 billion by 2020.

27 Sep 2019

What are your expectations for health tourism in Spain in 2019 and 2020?

Health tourism is a segment that has been growing considerably in recent years and which, in the specific case of Spain and according to our 2018 estimates, already generates revenues in excess of €600 million. We receive about 140,000 visitors a year who come here for treatment.

Spain’s position in international markets is getting better every year, although we still have much work to do, and this leads us to be optimistic about growth expectations for the coming years. We expect 200,000 visitors and €1 billion by 2020.

This segment has the advantage that visitors who come here for health-related treatments, in general, they are a profile with higher spending power. They have a longer average stay, are accompanied by family and generate an average expenditure of around €3,500 each. It’s also important to understand that they help overcome seasonality, as they come when they need treatment, not only during the holiday season.

What do you expect for the sector internationally?

In recent years, health tourism has seen an average annual increase of 20% worldwide, both in terms of the number of patients and the volume of business they generate.

According to a study conducted by the International Healthcare Research Center in 2016, global industry growth is expected to reach 25% over the next ten years. And the same survey says that between 3% and 4% of the world’s population will travel for health-related treatment.

Is Spain taking advantage of its competitive advantages in this area?

We’re talking here about two sectors of the economy, tourism and health, and Spain’s a world leader in both. Over 82 million visitors, 12% of GDP and 13% of employment, for example, in the tourism sector. And in the health sector, we have the best professionals and facilities, and the most advanced technology, and so on, factors which have made Spain the healthiest country in the world and the Spanish health care system is the most efficient in Europe and third in world rankings, according to recent Bloomberg reports. Even so, in health tourism, we still have a long way to go, because until now Spain had never promoted itself in this segment.

We have a partnership agreement with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, through the Secretary of State for Tourism. It aims to strengthen Spain’s position in the international health tourism market and attract patient-tourists from our priority outbound markets.

At SpainCares we believe that it’s important to continue developing this model of public-private cooperation, as health tourism has such important potential for growing Spain’s economy and improving its global image. We must continue encouraging collaboration between the health care and tourism sectors, but we also need a firm commitment from government to become leaders in this segment as well.

Which treatments and specialisms are most in demand?

Some of the specialisms most in demand by patients are fertility treatments, ophthalmology, orthopaedic surgery and plastic surgery. In the case of fertility treatments, Spain is Europe’s leader in the number of treatments carried out, because legislation here is favourable, but also because Spain has one of the world’s highest success rates.

Spain’s private healthcare system is equipped with the best technology, so we should also bear in mind the much more specialised treatments available such as robotic surgery, cancer treatments and personalised medicine, which are increasingly in demand here.

What are the trends in provision and services for this type of visitor?

When a tourist-patient chooses their destination there are different factors that influence the decision and we must take into account the special features of each of the markets we’re targeting. We have to be able to care for patients in their own language, know their dietary needs, for example, in the case of Arab countries, and so on.

We’ve already demonstrated our quality, and now we need to progress with personalisation. Spanish businesses are developing their products and services and adapting them to provide the best possible customer experience so that customers go on to recommend both the provider and the destination.