Medical Tourism in Spain: An Interesting Business Opportunity for the Spa Industry


The spa industry is evolving rapidly thanks to a changing scenario full of challenges and opportunities. This week, we would like to talk about medical tourism by bringing into discussion some of the insights provided by the journalist Reyes Rincon on her article ‘Need surgery? Come to Spain’ published in El Pais. While we will be highlighting the potential that medical tourism offers in Spain, we can see that “medical”, “health” and “wellness” tourism continue to take momentum. Let’s have a look.


Overview of Medical Tourism

Medical tourism combines the expertise of the medical field with the services provided by the travel, leisure and hotel industries. Consequently, countries with good, low-cost healthcare systems that happen to be attractive tourist destinations represent the best places for medical tourism to flourish. This is exactly why medical tourism has gained terrain in countries like Mexico, Turkey and Spain.

In the last decade, medical tourism has experience a significant increase. The current crisis of healthcare systems around the world and the arrival of new customers who want to stay healthy during their holidays are only some of the reasons behind this recent boom of medical tourism. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), medical tourism is worth 75 billion Euros worldwide.

The increase of medical tourism has been parallel to the increase of wellbeing tourism. While the former is mostly related to treatments in hospital and clinics, the latter focuses on the health-related services provided by spas and wellness centres. Such an increase is tightly related to the synergies we have built with the medical field as well as our own focus on the benefits that our treatments and therapies can offer to patients with different kinds of conditions.


The Spanish Healthcare System

Thanks to the low cost and high quality of the different treatments offered by its healthcare system, Spain is one of the most interesting fields for medical tourism. In fact, foreign patients looking for treatments in Spain can save between 30% and 70% of the costs associated to those treatments. According to the US Medical Tourism Corporation, a provider of medical healthcare services, “cosmetic surgery costs around 60 percent more in the UK than it does in Spain, and prices for knee or hip replacements are around half what they are in Britain.”

In terms of its quality, the Spanish healthcare system is seventh in the ranking of the World Health Organization. Additionally, the Spanish healthcare system is made of a solid infrastructure of hospitals and clinics filled with well-trained professionals. As far as medical tourism goes, “both private and state medical facilities in Spain have departments dedicated specifically to medical tourists coming over to receive healthcare in Spain.”


Comprehensive Approach

At different points in the past, we have argued in favour of comprehensive approaches capable of bringing different contributions from various fields. We believe medical tourism can also take advantage of this kind of approach. We strongly believe that the active participation of different industries, including our own field, will help to move medical tourism to the next level.

There is, in fact, an increasing understanding about this comprehensive approach. For instance, a recent initiative aimed at transforming Spain’s Costa del Sol into the centre of medical tourism is based on a model nurtured by different contributions. As explained by Dr. Such, head of cardiovascular surgery at Malaga’s Clinico Universitario hospital, “the idea is that healthcare centers, along with health food and drug companies in the area, will come together under the Malaga Health banner to provide a range of services that share a guarantee of quality.”

We believe the consolidation of similar approaches will allow the spa and wellness industries to fully embrace medical tourism as a real business opportunity. Considering the way our industry is evolving, the health-related benefits that spas and wellness centres can provide and the synergies we are forging with the medical field, we believe medical tourism offers an exciting opportunity for our industry. We should continue to embrace it.

By Sonal

Sonal Uberoi creates and delivers smarter spas around the world. Spas and hotel groups hire Sonal to help them design, set up and manage their wellness businesses. Her finance background and worldwide operations experience in the spa, wellness and hospitality sectors make Sonal the go-to expert for business optimisation solutions. Connect with Sonal on LinkedIn

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