Thomas White Global Investing
Jordan
Jordan Stamp
July 17, 2009
A Postcard from the Middle East
Jordan: Medical Tourism Uplifts the Economy

Jordan is growing in popularity as a medical tourism destination

The majority of the patients who visit Jordan from all around the world seek organ transplants, plastic surgery and cardiac surgery.

The doctor, dressed in a white lab coat and a matching white headscarf smiled at her American patient. Her foreign patient had come for a major surgery and was now preparing to return to the U.S., completely cured.

Medical services in Jordan are offered to foreign patients from around the world and it has developed into an industry itself known as “medical tourism.” It is such a strong sector that it has emerged from the global financial crisis without a scratch. Medical tourism brings in around $1 billion in revenue annually and has been privy to a 10% increase in the influx of foreign patients every year.

According to a study by the Private Hospitals Association (PHA), 210,000 patients from 48 countries received treatment in Jordan in 2008 compared to 190,000 in 2007. PHA President Fawzi Hammouri says that foreigners are attracted by the “high quality and competitive cost of healthcare.” Iraqi patients topped the list of medical visitors last year numbering at 45,000 followed by an approximate 25,000 people from Palestine. More than an estimated 1,800 Americans, 1,200 UK citizens and 400 Canadian citizens went to Jordan for medical treatment in 2008 – and with good reason – the expenditure is only 25% of the value of the same medical procedure in the U.S.

In 2008, Jordan was ranked number one in the Arab region by the World Bank, and number five in the world as a medical tourism destination. And now the country is aggressively touting these rankings in the U.S. with advertising campaigns to lure Americans worn out by soaring health costs. Hospitals in Jordan now offer package deals that include air travel and a list of tourist destinations in the country, a plan that promises not just physical repairs but also overall relaxation. With the advertising campaigns calling out to American citizens for medical procedures, Jordan hopes to enrich itself with some badly needed cash.

Jordan relies heavily on tourism, foreign investments and worker remittances for its revenue and surprisingly lacks the natural resources, like oil, that many of its neighbors enjoy. With this, Jordan is on a drive to promote new services and industries, especially medical tourism, which has surfaced as one of the biggest saviors of the sagging economy. Ironically, Jordan’s local medical sector is facing numerous challenges, which include rapid population growth along with a constant inflow of refugees and inefficient financing of health services. Jordan, which has an annual population growth of 2.2%, has racked up $1.311 billion in health expenditures, constituting 9.8% of the GDP.

Jordan also faces stiff competition. According to medical industry experts, the country faces a tough battle with other rival locales such as India, Costa Rica and Thailand, who are all jostling for space at the top in the world medical tourism market. Because of their proximity, the Caribbean Islands remain the top preference for American tourists.

But how will Jordan tap the lucrative U.S. market, snaring business away from its neighboring rivals? The Medical Tourism Association of Jordan has invited top healthcare specialists and insurers from the U.S. to visit the country in July and see the city’s six internationally accredited hospitals. The invitation is part of the marketing campaign that Jordan has launched to elbow its way to the top of the competition. Jordan’s visitor numbers show that the world outside the Middle East is just waking up to the services Jordan has to offer. Working in Jordan’s favor is a host of English-speaking doctors, high-quality service, as well as the promise of cheap treatment during tough times. That might just be the cure the doctor ordered.

 

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