Tourists Flocking to ‘Scalpel Safaris’
JOHANNESBURG ~ South Africa’s medical tourism industry has skyrocketed, with the number of overseas patients drawn by â€œscalpel safariâ€ packages more than doubling in three years, an expert said.
The booming sector now earns US$37 million annually, Martin Kelly, president of the Association for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, said, underlining that that was a fraction of the potential.
Industry estimates predict that about 20,000 health travelers will visit South Africa in 2006, up from around 8,000 in 2003.
“South Africa has a very good reputation internationally for the quality of its medical service facilities and because it’s cheaper,” Kelly said.
People are jetting in for nips and tucks, organ transplants and orthopedic surgery and then soaking up the South African sunshine at world-renowned game parks, spectacular mountains and pristine beaches, he said.
“I think the opportunities are enormous. The problem is we have to get out and get things organized and advertise it,” Kelly said.
Thailand, currently the world’s leading medical tourism destination, attracts about 600,000 patients annually.Filed under: Travel & Culture