Health Tourism Is Sustainable or Not?

Health Tourism, a presently the prevailing phenomenon, can be widely described as tourism that enhances the mental and physical health through therapeutic and wellness activities that upsurges the capacity of individuals to meet those needs.

Even though health tourism has developed and matured substantially in the past few years, this concept is understudied. The concept of health tourism consists of two different categories is Wellness Tourism and Medical Tourism.

While Wellness Tourism intents to enhance and bring parity between the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual prospects of individuals with the help of activities that upgrade lifestyle—such as physical activity, recreation, personal care, and fresh and healthy eating habits—Medical Tourism attributes to a tourism activity that comprises the employment of medical supplies and services for the prevention, diagnosis, medical treatment, cure, and consequent recovery from the disease.

In the present-day world, the community invests a rising amount of time on recreation and relaxation activities and resources are used in actions that benefit and empower healthy lifestyles.

The health tourism industry further observe growth owing to factors like the constrained and overburdened circumstances of medical care in most of the developed countries, where geriatric population and chronic ailments take an ever-bigger percentage of total health expenditures.

In addition to that, the lifestyle in big cities further poses a threat to public health which, along with chronic diseases, leads to an increasing demand for natural alternatives, health-related travel, and escapism.

More essentially, the technological advances and innovation, in the modern-day world, also promotes health-related travel, for instance, minimally invasive technology such as laparoscopy, or innovation in aesthetic treatments.

In spite of the amplification of health tourism, anticipating its future progress and market size, at present, is challenging due to inadequate, disintegrated, and often inaccurate data. Social accountability and sustainability have become leading norms in health tourism. The destination places are also accountable to consider the effect of health tourism on the quality of life of regional residents, as the health of regional residents should be considered equally crucial as the well-being of tourists.

Favourably, the health tourism industry comprises a strength to match demand and offer anytime during the whole year in comparison to other tourism classifications which are massively relied on and related with particular times of the year, which is positively battling the powerful seasonality tendency of the tourism industry.

By the same token, health tourism industry further encourages regional development through the scattering and remotion of tourism centers throughout urban and rural areas which may be lacking otherwise under general conditions. 

The idea of health tourism is much innovative and often popularly considered “Age-friendly” tourism that strives to meet the health needs of the entire “traveling” population, together with a cross-sector and integrated approach that consist of several different organizations functioning in sectors such as healthcare, transport, and accessibility.

Back in the year 2007, the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities empowered “Tourism accessible to all”, thereby encouraging travel for everybody ranging from older adults as well as people with special access needs, as a crucial part of any sustainable and responsible tourism policy.

Ageing is one of the biggest economic and social challenges most of the developed countries are facing, although older adults are considered a very essential part of the whole market share.

The geriatric population consist of several different groups, carrying their own need-patterns: fragile, active, and dependent, kindling age-specific spending patterns and priorities that are a part of the general consumer economy, and are commonly known as “Silver Economy”. The Silver Economy is steered by the development of a fresh consumer market and by the requirement to enhance the sustainability of public expenditure associated with ageing, as goods and services for healthy and active ageing are expected to influence on the efficiency of healthcare and social security systems, thus escalating their sustainability.

Health tourism is likely to have three kinds of impacts beginning from environmental impacts in which health tourism employs natural resources. Their haphazard use without any good practices is estimated to contribute to the depletion of natural resources. In countries like Colombia and Costa Rica, the tourists on health tourism perform recreational activities at a destination and establish incentives for the purpose of protection and use of natural resources - where cultural and natural tourism are two crucial sectors in the economy.

Secondly, health tourism has a positive social impact by enabling hundreds and thousands to access improved health services at economical prices therefore enhancing their quality of life as well as generating jobs, technological advances, and cultural enrichment within the community.

And lastly, economic impacts of health tourism are phenomenal for its multiplying effect. For instance, in Colombia the ratio is 1:5 which means that for every dollar spent on healthcare the medical traveler spends $5 within the tourism industry -- at restaurants, hotels, malls, transportation and travel agencies.

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