Jordan's Private Hospitals Association has launched a plan to promote medical tourism in 2017, following a decline in the sector's revenues in 2016 due to regional security concerns.
In addition to opening new markets for the kingdom, the two-year plan focuses on improving marketing techniques, association director Dr. Fawzi al-Hammouri told Al-Mashareq in late December.
"The medical tourism sector should not be incurring losses and is rather capable of offsetting the decline in the tourism sector caused by the conditions and turmoil in the Middle East," he said.
Al-Hammouri estimated the number of patients who received treatment in the kingdom in 2016 at "approximately 250,000", adding that Saudi Arabia ranked first in the number of patients who received treatment at Jordanian hospitals.
The plan aims to attract patients from new markets, he said, in order to address "the drop in the number of patients from Arab countries due to the military and security situation in some of those countries".
To this end, the association will conduct several field visits in 2017 to a number of countries, and African countries in particular, to attract patients to Jordan.
"The association also will conduct advertising campaigns to promote the health services provided by the kingdom's hospitals across multiple media, including social networking sites," al-Hammouri said.
Media delegations from many countries will be invited to promote medical tourism in the kingdom, he added.
"We need to do a better job at marketing," he said. "Unfortunately, the events taking place in the region weighed heavily on medical tourism."
Jordan enjoys security and stability and its hospitals have been recognised for the advanced care they provide, the quality of their services and excellent reputation, he said.
The workforce in the kingdom's medical sector is skilled, highly trained and professional, and hospitals in Jordan follow international standards, he added.
"The most important issue to be addressed is facilitating the procurement of entry visas by patients, especially those from Arab countries, such as Yemen and Libya," al-Hammouri said.
The medical tourism sector in Jordan is facing major challenges, including strong competition from some neighbouring countries, said economist Hussam Ayesh.
"The sector in Jordan must offer competitive prices and facilitate the issuance of visas to patients and escorts," he told Al-Mashareq.
The sector’s revenues declined not due to the weakness of the sector, but rather the advancement of the medical tourism sectors in other countries, he noted.
Ayesh called on the government to adopt a strategy to support this sector, which provides employment to thousands of Jordanians.
"The terrorist attacks and unrest in the region have caused non-Arab patients in general to abstain from coming, but there also are other internal factors and shortcomings that must be addressed," he said.
Overall decline in tourism
All tourism agencies are suffering from a significant decline in the numbers of visitors they serve, said Dawoud Safi, who works at a tourism agency in Amman's Shmeisani district.
"A number of agencies have closed their doors while others have laid off some of their employees because of the situation," he said. "An effective plan must be developed to address the issue."
"We must focus on the quality of service in Jordan and on security and safety in the kingdom," he added.
Tourism, including the medical tourism sector, is of vital importance, he said.
"The number of visitors for medical care was much higher in the past, but it has been declining steadily over the past years," Safi said.