Egypt believes it's well-positioned to take advantage of the surging interest in medical tourism, but it needs to make treatment more affordable in the face of increasing competition.
Egypt has been long known for attractions related to its ancient civilization such as the Great Sphinx of Giza and its pyramids. But the country is emphasizing medical tourism, a sector expected to boom in the next decade, as a part of its strategy to diversify its visitor mix.
“Over the years, Egypt has established itself as a front-runner in medical tourism,” said Egypt Tourism USA Director Kenneth Vasquez Laya about the country with the 14th ranked medical tourism industry in the world as listed by the Medical Tourism Index.
So what is the government doing to make it easier for medical tourists to traverse the country, especially with the medical tourism market possibly being worth more than $180 billion by 2025? Asaad M. Riad, general manager of the Egypt In-Touch Assistance, a company that provides medical services, said Egyptian authorities have invested enormously in its infrastructure, including upgrading highways and other major roads.
The government has also made efforts to streamline the visa application process and provide easier access to medical services for foreign patients. This includes offering online visas, and visas on arrival that allow patients to stay in Egypt for longer periods of time.
In addition, Egyptian authorities have announced plans to use the metaverse, an emerging virtual world where people interact with each other via digital means, to promote medical tourism.
Ahmed el-Sobky, chair of the country’s General Authority for Health Care, said metaverse technology enables users to virtually visit health care facilities, including getting a glimpse of amenities they provide.
However, the sector faces several challenges in Egypt.
“Egypt’s regulatory environment can be challenging as there are incomplete regulations in place for this industry so far,” Riad said.
When asked what he meant by “incomplete regulations,” Riad responded that Egypt doesn’t have a law that regulates medical tourism practitioners. “We don’t have an authority (that controls) and manages the industry,” he said.
Furthermore, many visitors aren’t covered by their insurance providers for medical treatments received in Egypt, making it difficult for them to afford the medical care in the country. Egypt is facing competition from other countries heavily investing in medical tourism, including South Africa, Turkey and Morocco.
“Egypt becomes more competitive by having better pricing than its competitors,” Riad said, adding the country needs to promote medical facilities in major destinations such as Cairo and Aswan.
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Photo credit: Egypt is beefing up its medical tourism industry to attract vistors. Source: Egypt In-Touch Assistance