Malta is preparing to launch the introductory phase of marketing the country as a medical tourism destination and discussions with all the relevant parties, including the regulatory ones, should be concluded over the coming months. Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, Mario de Marco, said at the Malta Medical Tourism Summit that at this initial stage of the development of medical tourism to Malta, the focus should be on the services provided by private hospitals and clinics operating on the island. As it grows and evolves it will become possible to widen the scope to include other specialised health services.
The Malta Tourism Authority has defined medical tourism to exclude non-medical aspects of healthcare tourism such as wellness and spa, as these can be marketed better within mainstream leisure tourism. This also means that medical tourism needs special marketing outside leisure tourism. However, where wellness and spa treatment are part of a wider medical package, they can be marketed as medical tourism. Malta’s main strengths lie in private hospitals and clinics offering cosmetic surgery, orthopedics, ophthalmic, neurological, urological, oncology, diagnostic, bariatric and cardiac services.
Dr de Marco identified markets to target for the promotion of medical tourism to Malta. In order of priority; United Kingdom, the rest of European Union, Libya and Egypt, the Middle East, Russia and finally the USA and Canada. He emphasised that the development of medical tourism in Malta required that the health and tourism dimensions worked hand in hand for the successful development of this potentially lucrative segment, “We need to recognise that medical tourism revolves around an individual’s health and wellbeing which should remain topmost of any agenda involving the development, growth and expansion of this sector. The successful outcome of a marketing plan is very heavily dependent on the quality of the product or service being marketed. When it comes to the health of a medical tourist, there is absolutely no leeway for bad experiences to take place.”
Malta will be initially marketed as a medical tourism destination in the UK and then in the rest of Europe and North Africa. The attraction of medical tourism to Malta is that it is not seasonal, is very economically beneficial to the country and has the potential to add a new dimension to the tourist services already offered. Any surplus capacity at hospitals, clinics, health centres and hotels can be put to good use and allows for more of a return on investment, which in turn allows for the upgrading of facilities. As a hospital stay is normally followed by a period of convalescence, it necessitates accommodation and family or friends often accompany people travelling for medical reasons. Besides its central position, favourable climate, rich culture and history and good health services, Malta has a stable political climate, strong ties with neighbouring countries and many doctors who have worked or been trained in the UK.