De­vel­op­ing Africa’s Health Tourism Po­ten­tial

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL - Des Langk­ilde. For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.panafrican­health­tourism­congress.com

Health Tourism can po­ten­tially pro­vide a lu­cra­tive niche market to grow tourist num­bers into Africa. How­ever, re­li­able in­for­ma­tion and statis­tics on this sec­tor from a lo­cal per­spec­tive are im­pos­si­ble to find. But this sad state of af­fairs is go­ing to change as from June this year.

Based on my own re­search trawl­ing the web, some ma­jor prac­ti­cal and im­age ob­sta­cles need to be over­come for health tourism to grow into a ma­ture niche sec­tor in Africa.

Neg­a­tive per­cep­tions re­gard­ing the high in­ci­dence of HIV/AIDS and crime are two such ob­sta­cles that need to be ad­dressed, from both an in­ter­na­tional and a lo­cal per­spec­tive. Stud­ies show that con­tract­ing HIV at work is a ma­jor fear of African health care providers them­selves, while per­cep­tions of crime and se­cu­rity are ma­jor fac­tors driv­ing the “brain drain” of African health care pro­fes­sion­als to Europe and North Amer­ica.

The table be­low shows the num­ber of health care work­ers in four south­ern Africa coun­tries (as at 2012) com­pared to Europe and North Amer­ica, and com­pared to the rec­om­mended World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) min­i­mum: On a more pos­i­tive note, I found that the po­ten­tial for tourism en­trepreneurs to tap into the grow­ing med­i­cal tourism niche lies in gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions that pro­hibit doc­tors and spe­cial­ist

sur­geons from di­rectly at­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional pa­tients. For ex­am­ple, South African physi­cians are eth­i­cally re­stricted from mar­ket­ing or ad­ver­tis­ing their ser­vices, or to have a pho­to­graph of them­selves on their web­site, or to make claims about the qual­ity of their work. They also can­not ac­cept pay­ment for re­fer­ring a pa­tient to a ho­tel or travel agent.

These in­hibit­ing reg­u­la­tions pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for en­trepreneurs to es­tab­lish fa­cil­i­ta­tion or in­ter­me­di­ary ser­vices be­tween pa­tients, doc­tors/sur­geons, and the pri­vate med­i­cal hos­pi­tals and clin­ics. These ser­vices could in­clude pre-trip con­sul­tations in the pa­tient’s home coun­try, con­nect­ing prospec­tive pa­tients with African health fa­cil­i­ties and sur­geons, pre­par­ing cost es­ti­mates, or­gan­is­ing flights and ac­com­mo­da­tion, and ar­rang­ing post-surgery tours and ac­tiv­i­ties, such as sa­faris.

How­ever, to re­ceive a re­fer­ral fee from doc­tors as an in­ter­me­di­ary, the en­tre­pre­neur would need to be ap­pro­pri­ately qual­i­fied to make med­i­cal eval­u­a­tions and to ac­cept med­i­cal li­a­bil­ity.

Pan-African Health Tourism Congress 2017

For­tu­nately, lo­cal tourism busi­nesses and en­trepreneurs don’t need to rely on out­dated statis­tics that I’ve come across be­cause there’s a full blown Busi­ness Op­por­tu­nity Fair, Ex­hi­bi­tion and Congress com­ing to KwaZulu-Na­tal, South Africa in June 2017.

An im­pres­sive line-up of speak­ers have al­ready been con­firmed to present on a di­verse range of top­ics, in­clud­ing The State of Health Tourism in Africa; New Fa­cil­ity Tours; the South Africa Health Tourism Academy; and even the launch of a ‘Youth Health Tourism In­no­va­tion Hackathon.’

So, if you want to tap into the health tourism niche, the City of uMh­lathuze is where you need to be from 8 to 9 June.

Source: Médecins Sans Fron­tiéres, “Help Wanted”, P.3

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