Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Get healthy, swim in the Dead Sea-21 July, 2009

The mostly desert kingdom of Jordan is looking to the US to tap into the multi-billion dollar medical tourism market.

"Come here, do your surgery. Afterward, have a vacation, visit Petra, swim in the Dead Sea," said Dr. Fawzi al-Hammouri, the head of Jordan's Private Hospitals Association.

He was listing the country's most popular tourism destinations. Jordan hospitals are offering package deals, including air travel.

"All this, inclusive, is less than 25 percent of what you have to pay in the U.S.," he said.
The push -- which includes a Web campaign and a visit by a group of U.S. health care specialists and insurers -- is a key part of the country's strategy to develop new services and industries, according to tourism observers. Unlike many of its neighbors, Jordan lacks oil wealth and relies on tourism, worker remittances, foreign investments and aid for its revenue.
With health costs climbing eight percent each year in the U.S., experts say medical tourism has been drawing more Americans looking for anything from cardiac care to plastic surgery.

About 600,000 Americans -- roughly 25 percent of medical tourists -- will travel abroad for surgery this year, according to Paul Keckley, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions in Washington, D.C. It's an industry that will gross about $4 billion in 2009, he projected. Other experts estimate it could bring in ten times that level this year.

The World Bank has ranked Jordan number one in the region as a medical tourism destination, followed closely by Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and Israel. It said the kingdom ranked fifth in the world in terms of medical tourism destinations.

Report by David Wilkening
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