Panel Of Experts: The Prospects of Medical Tourism in Russia

Panel Of Experts: The Prospects of Medical Tourism in Russia
July 29, 2017
Russian and foreign leading experts answer the questions of “BB” on the prospects for the development of medical tourism in Russia and in the world.
Viktor PUGIEV, 
President of “Central Board For Tourism and Recreation” Holding

The demand for medical and health tourism is growing today, and we cannot let it decline. At present, there are 1880 health resorts for 457,560 guests providing treatment for almost 8 million people per year. 

Many reserves, however, remain unused. The tourism industry can provide a much larger share of the country’s GDP. While in Russia the tourism market accounts for 1.6% of GDP, this index is about 20% in developed countries. And this is when Russia is ranked 5th of 130 countries for world tourism resources and only 87th in the world for public spending on tourism. According to Rostourism, about 33 million people (23%) of the country’s 144 million of population traveled within Russia in 2013. Meanwhile Russian tourism, both domestic and international, is only growing due to a small share of population who are able to 
afford themselves an all-inclusive recreation abroad as well as in 

Alexander SOLONIN, 
Director General of Private Clinics Association of St. Petersburg and Northwest Self-Regulating Organization

According to the results of a recent study among Russian citizens willing to go for treatment to other regions of the country, first come inquiries on oncology. They are followed far behind by: cardiology, neurosurgery and reproductive medicine. The foreigners in Russia are mostly interested in dental care. Gynecology and urology are in the second place in the rating of their interests, plastic surgery is in the third place, then follow trauma treatment and ophthalmology. As an expert I generally agree with this assessment. Let us bear in mind that prices of Russian clinics are still rather attractive for foreign patients taking into consideration the dollar exchange rate.

Mikhail MALTSEV, 
Head of Tourism Department of Samara region

Most of Russian health resorts were built in Soviet time, and their development has been given little attention for many years. But there are also positive developments, including those in the territory of Samara Region. For example, the largest specialized rehabilitation centre in Russia for spinal patients, Sergievskie Mineral Waters Healh Resort, is actively regaining its greatness. This health resort is known for its sulphuric sources since the time of Peter I.

Samara Region is generally one of the most favourable regions for treatment and rehabilitation. Health resorts and recreational facilities are mainly located along the Volga River, which makes them particularly attractive for tourists. In our region, we can visit the Medical Center of the Department of Presidential Affairs, “Volzhsky Utes” [“Volga Cliff”] Health Resort. A unique preventive treatment is offered by the following health resorts: “Nadezhda”, “Mozhaisky”, “Volga”, “Tsiolkovsky”, “Molodetsky Kurgan”, Matrioshka Plaza Health and Recreation Centre.

Chairman of Israel Medical Tourism Association (IMTA)

Surely, it is unlikely that anyone will go from America to Russia 
unless for dentist’s services or plastic surgery, but Russia may become the main health resort among the states of the former Soviet Union as soon as it learns how to earn. In Israel, we see what incompetent medical records patients from all over the former USSR come with sometimes and I can tell with all responsibility: in some former Soviet republics medicine is so weak that we can say they don’t have it at all. Throughout the entire post-soviet space, Russian medicine is the best. Most of Russian doctors I meet are very smart and professional. After all, this is the same layer of people who moved to Israel, confirmed their diploma and are now bringing fame to Israeli medicine.

Yes, there is a lack of equipment and old hospital facilities. But I can see that Russian hospitals are being gradually equipped, and those that are being constructed look worthy. I visited cancer centres in Samara and in Barnaul. They correspond to the level of Western clinics. In Barnaul, they created the project themselves, invented design and color solutions, and they got a very “warm” and “kind-hearted” hospital. So if you ask me how medical tourism from Russia to Israel will look like in 30 years, I will answer that it’s going to decrease. I would advise Russia to start the development of medical tourism from health resort and spa complexes, as you already have an attractive and working base. And simultaneously, you can also develop medicine. 

Christina IONITSKAYA, 
Deputy Director of the Office of Catalonia Council for Tourism 
in the CIS and Eastern European countries

I think now the Russian tourism industry, like the Catalan one had once, has a great chance for development. It was after the Olympic Games of 1992, which was held in Barcelona, the Government of Catalonia decided to use a new infrastructure and develop a local tourism industry in the most efficient way. After the Sochi Olympic Games and in the run-up to the World Football Cup, Russia should dispose new resources in a smart way.

It is very important not to chase after a mass tourism and not to perform chaotic site development. Quantity does not always mean quality. The Catalans understand this like no one else, and today they are betting on responsible tourism, the tourism of unique sensations that supposes a respectful approach to the environment. This type of tourism enables foreigners to escape from the stereotype of beach reсreation, to gain a unique experience and to unfold entirely new aspects of the country.

Founding Chairman of the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council (THTC) 

Globalization in medicine seems to reveal itself earlier than in any other areas. Looking for a better and sometimes a more affordable medical care, people have been traveling around the world for many decades. In 2014, the income from the world medical tourism industry was estimated to be 450 billion dollars. Most medical tourists are the residents of the United States, CIS, Persian Gulf countries and the European Union. It has been calculated, for example, that some 2 million Americans are travelling for medical care abroad every year. 
Turkey has become one of the main points of destination on the world health map in recent years. Large-scale reform of health-care system, serious investments, advanced technologies and the relatively low cost of treatment made Turkey one of the most popular destinations in the global health tourism market. 
The Turkish Healthcare Travel Council (THTC) was established in 2005. The Association has 151 official offices in 90 countries and is currently the largest one in the world. Furthermore, in 2013, at the conference in Monte Carlo, Turkey initiated and founded the Global Healthcare Travel Council, which became a guiding and coordinating platform for health care and medical tourism issues worldwide.