This year's World Health Tourism Congress in Cyprus was a success


This year’s World Health Tourism Congress in Cyprus was a success with both suppliers and buyers.

In March this year, 320 people gathered at Le Méridien Limassol Spa & Resort, Cyprus, for the second World Health Tourism Congress (WHTC). The event showed huge growth from the first event in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 2006. This year there were 120 buyers of services and 95 solution providers from 35 countries. In fact, the event was so popular that many delegates had to be accommodated in another hotel a short distance away.

The event took place over three days and was organised by Aura International. It claims to be the first event in the world targeting corporate buyers of the healthcare- tourism industry, medical and wellbeing tourism, ministries of health, corporations and travel agencies. While there are a growing number of conferences and exhibitions, what differentiates this event is its business-to-business and sales nature, aimed exclusively at bringing together providers and suppliers in one-to-one meetings. Each supplier has a sales desk and each buyer a programme of appointments. The buyers move (or are supposed to move) between desks for each appointment.

But it was not just about doing business. The International Medical Travel Association (IMTA) used the event to formally launch itself. With more than 20 founding members, Steven Tucker, the association’s president and medical director of the West Clinic Excellence Cancer Centre, Singapore, highlighted the IMTA’s primary mission as to bring together the healthcare and travel industries as stakeholders in medical travel and to build an economically sustainable, excellent and ethical medical-travel industry. He stressed the importance of protecting the interests of the travelling patient as the ultimate aim.

Education was also critical and, between meetings, delegates had a range of seminars to attend to suit their various interests. There were presentations for buyers highlighting specific facilities or countries such as Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Germany and the Philippines. Buyers were also interested in the presentation from Emirates Advocates about the legal implications for third-party referral companies within the Co-operation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) area. GlobalChoice Healthcare gave a presentation for hospitals, explaining the importance of building and positioning themselves as a brand.

Large numbers of people attended the session hosted by Keith Pollard from Treatment Abroad, which  examined in detail the growing UK market for health tourism. Rudy Rupak, the founder of Planet Hospital, looked at how insurance and demographics were changing the US market and their possible impacts on medical tourism. There was a cocktail party and dinner added to the usual coffee and lunch breaks to ensure no opportunity for doing business was missed.

The 2008 event is already being planned. Some changes are being considered to improve the event, with a more rigorous selection process in advance, the formation of an advisory committee of stakeholders and consideration given to getting the suppliers rather than the buyers to move around the conference – giving the buyers no excuse for not attending a meeting. While the exact format of next year’s event has not yet been revealed, the conference will be taking place in the Don Carlos Hotel, Marbella, Spain, 7-9 March 2008 and details will be reported in IMTJ.

By Julian Gregory



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