Manouchehr Jahanian of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization has stated that Iran hosted 200,000 health tourists in 2012, earning $1.5 billion, a figure more than double 2011.
Last year, more than 4.5 million foreign tourists spent $9 billion in Iran and created jobs for 2.5 million people directly or indirectly. Tourism is up by a million people on 2011; people being attracted by diversified climates as well as numerous tourist and historical attractions.
Most health tourists were from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Turkey, Kuwait, Oman, India and Pakistan. These include medical tourists as well as health and spa tourists.
The number of Omani nationals visiting Iran for medical tourism is on the rise with around 5,000 Omanis seeking treatment in the country every year, according to the Iranian Embassy.
Medical tourists from neighbouring states mostly come for transplants, ophthalmology, orthopedics and dentistry.
Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), has conducted studies that suggest the best targets are Iraq, Afghanistan, Persian Gulf states, Central Asian nations and Iranians residing abroad.
In 2012 Iran launched new plans to expand medical tourism in the region. The Health Tourism Committee has been formed in collaboration with representatives of Foreign Ministry, Iran Medical Organization, Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, and the Commercial Chamber of Health Ministry.
The government is planning a new health tourism law that will regulate who can offer medical tourism-60 hospitals have indicated interest.
Pressure continues to mount on Iran over its nuclear programme; and the presence of US and EU warships off the coast, is hardly conducive to attracting American or European medical tourists.