Health Tourism is an ever increasing international trend, which only a few countries have fully exploited. The island nation of Cyprus has many advantages that may establish it as a preferred health tourism destination. This article gives a bird’s eye view of these advantages and potentials, along with the main steps that need to be taken for the further development of this particular industry in the island of Venus. A special reference is given to the related means provided by the Internet and especially to the Health Tourism Portal, a site created for the development of the Health Tourism Domain in Cyprus. This portal consists a powerful marketing and networking tool for the health tourism stakeholders, providing them the opportunity for effective promotion, locally and abroad.
Health Tourism: a Global Trend
Health tourism (also called medical travel or global healthcare) is the term coined by travel agencies and the mass media to describe the rapidly-growing practice of traveling across international borders to obtain health-related services. Such services include common procedures, as well as complex specialized operations, such as joint replacement, cardiac surgery and cosmetic surgeries.
The number of people traveling abroad in order to receive this kind of services is rapidly increasing and there are several reasons behind this trend. The most important of them are that prices at the health tourism destinations are better than at home, treatment can be received more promptly, facilities are more advanced and more alternative treatments are provided. Health tourism in its wider sense includes sports tourism and the wellness and fitness tourism. Actually, every type of health care is included in the term, psychiatry, alternative treatments, culinary tourism, accessible tourism and assisted living abroad, to name a few.
In some publications is stated that health tourism has been recognized by over 100 countries as a national industry. However, it seems that it has not reached its full potential of development and this is partly due to the insufficient use of modern technology and particularly the internet. An additional problem that health tourism has to face is that the related measures of quality vary across the world and the comparison between countries is not an easy task.
The Prospects of Cyprus
The eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus is among the world’s best-loved holiday and retirement destinations. The reasons for that extend way beyond the mere look at the island’s climatic charts. Easily capable of meeting the demands of today’s tourists, Cyprus is also one of the countries leading the drive to open up medical tourism to a wider audience.
The standard of health in Cyprus is considered to be very high and the Cyprus medical system is compared very favorably with that of other developed countries. This quality may be expressed by various health indicators, such as the infant mortality rate (which stands at 3.1 per 1.000 live births), the expectation of life at birth (77.0 years for males and 81.7 for females) and the number of persons per doctor, which stands at 395. In addition, the doctors, nurses and technical medical staff of Cyprus health establishments have been trained in many EU countries and the USA. It follows that Cyprus has a very high potential in establishing itself as a preferred medical tourism destination.
A particular health tourism sector with high potentials for development in Cyprus is Wellness and Fitness Tourism, i.e. the supply of services oriented to people seeking optimal health and well being. The purpose is to achieve body, mind and spirit integration, in order each individual to live more fully within the human and natural community.
Wellness and fitness tourism makes the perfect complement to Medical Tourism and Cyprus boasts an extensive range of health and wellness spas, offering a broad range of traditional and alternative services. There are countless treatments available to soothe, rejuvenate and inspire. Thalassotherapy, traditional baths and hamams, beauty treatments and aromatherapy, hot stone massage and hydrotherapy are only a few of them. For physiotherapy and rehabilitation, a vast selection of modern and extensive sports facilities and gyms are available.
Another advantage that Cyprus possesses in the area of health tourism is the combination of medical treatment with leisure, making traveling for health purposes more attractive than simply receiving healthcare at home. Some local businesses and providers have already started pursuing the development of health tourism in Cyprus, particularly in the area of medical care and wellness and fitness. The first results seem very encouraging, since Cyprus has already earned itself an exceptional reputation as a leading international centre of clinical excellence, providing first-rate services at very competitive prices.
However, very few of the health-related enterprises and organizations have considered effective international promotion, this mostly attributed to the lack of effectual advertisement abroad, despite the available opportunities given by modern technology and in particular by the Internet.
Further Development of Health Tourism in Cyprus
Given the number of industries and sectors involved, the development of health tourism in Cyprus requires that the engaged firms, bodies and organizations (the stakeholders) must orchestrate and unify their efforts towards a single direction. In other words, the health tourism domain must integrate in order to be fully developed. Such a great accomplishment will not take place, without taking advantage the infinite potentials of communication, especially the Internet.
For that particular reason the Health Tourism Portal (http://www.healthtourismportal.com) has been recently launched, a site which provides all the opportunities for the unification and effective promotion of Health Tourism in Cyprus. This portal may complement the efforts towards the development of health tourism in Cyprus, through organized advertisement, extension and promotion abroad. Thus it may provide a boost for this initiative, along with a fresh momentum and encouragement for further development.
The Health Tourism Portal was created for three primary reasons:
a) To facilitate the communication between the firms and bodies engaged in health tourism (the stakeholders) and unite them into an integrated industry, through active cooperation and exchange of knowledge, ideas and methodologies.
b) To promote and advertise the unique and differentiated services that Cyprus enterprises and bodies have to offer in the area of the health tourism.
c) To give the opportunity to every person, firm or organization outside Cyprus to have a uniform and precise concept of the merits and potentials of Cyprus in the particular field. In that manner, Cyprus will come to the full attention of health and medical tourism facilators, such as health tourism agents and brokers.
Health tourism is a wide industry and many benefits may be retrieved from the better collaboration of the engaged parties, as described above. On the contrary the lack of communication may result in inefficiency and lack of competitiveness in the sector. An increase to the degree of awareness may be realized via the participation of the engaged stakeholders into WebPages designed for that particular purpose, such as the Health Tourism Portal.
In addition to the above, the continuous interaction and communication of the health tourism stakeholders may result in additional opportunities for gainful investments and the participation to local and international networks. The benefits from such engagements are far from ignorable, since they include: a) lower promotion and advertisement costs, b) quick and easy access to new ideas and technologies, c) reduction of the capital requirements, d) more effective use of infrastructure, e) reduction of the risks involved in developing new services, f) increased effectiveness and efficiency and g) reinforcement of competitiveness of the entire sector.
One of the many services that the Health Tourism Portal provides to its members is the Forum, designed to be a discussion medium for the members who wish to establish an organization to promote the health tourism establishments in Cyprus. The Health Tourism Portal Forum provides a channel for creative discussion and exchange of knowledge, ideas and technology. Further on, given the many different health tourism services offered in Cyprus, it may create an environment of interaction, collaboration and formation of alliances between the health tourism stakeholders.
In that manner, the Health Tourism Portal Forum may act as a catalyst and motivator for the initiation of additional actions needed to deal with, one of them being the integration of the health tourism domain in Cyprus. The benefits from integrating the segments of health tourism into one domain are many. The most important of which them is that the actions concerned with the development of the health tourism sector will then be launched by an all-embracing legal entity, which may identify the common goals, marshal the stakeholders and ensure the sustainability of the entire domain.
Actions such as the ones facilitated by the Health Tourism Portal will put an end to the inefficiencies created by the relative fragmentation of health tourism in Cyprus and increase once and for all the effectiveness and international competitiveness of Cyprus in that area.
 Gahlinger P.M. (2008), The Medical Tourism Travel Guide: Your Complete Reference to Top-Quality, Low-Cost Dental, Cosmetic, Medical Care & Surgery Overseas, Sunrise River Press.
 Statistical Service of Cyprus (2008), Health and Hospital Statistics 2006, Printing Office of the Republic of Cyprus.