Health interferes with our daily lives, as it is linked to our habits, behavior, and all our life activities, such as nutrition, sports and sleep, until it reaches out to aspects of recreation, tourism and entertainment.
With the pace of life accelerating, maintaining a healthy balanced pattern in life becomes more and more difficult in a way that requires extreme effort to obtain such a balance.
Many countries have been driven to think about solutions and have launched initiatives that serve human well-being, welfare and create a kind of balance for their people. In Saudi Arabia, the Quality of Life Program was one of the programs of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 to improve the quality of life of residents and visitors, and its strategic objectives include promoting sports activities in society. The program also relates to developing the tourism sector, diversifying entertainment opportunities to meet the needs of the population in the country, and improving the living conditions of locals and expatriates.
The wellness industry is one of the important types of tourism, which is described as traveling for the purpose of treatment in health resorts in various parts of the world, especially in countries that are famous for their progress in the medical field.
Tourism for treatment, for instance, depends on the use of specialized clinics, medical centers or modern hospitals that provides medical equipment and human cadres characterized by high efficiency and skill, which spread in many countries of the world. Some countries have excelled over others in this field and have become famous and distinguished, such as Germany, Czechia, Hungary, Indonesia, Thailand, India and Turkiye, which is famous for hair transplantation and achieved revenues exceeding $1 billion in 2018 from this industry.
Curative or preventive practices rely on natural practices in the treatment and recovery of patients, such as complementary medicine practices like acupuncture, chiropractic, natural treatment, herbal medicine, and treatment in mineral or sulfur water springs, such as the lakes in Indonesia, and healing centers such as those in Czechia and Cyprus.
Advanced medical tourism is based on fusion medicine or integrative medicine, for patients to obtain treatment while giving them the opportunity of tourism and entertainment.
The Quality of Life Program was one of the programs of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 to improve the quality of life of residents and visitors.
This takes us to a comprehensive review of hospitals that changed their function and developed over time. As we go back to their origins, we find that they served as a shelter for patients. Several centuries ago, individuals received care and treatment wherever they were, and with time hospitals turned into huge treatment machines that developed rapidly. However, the speed of development of hospitals did not keep pace with the speed of development of medicine or even the requirements of patients, and there was talk of transforming health facilities into treatment and entertainment facilities that would be more attractive.
This new vision became an urgent matter, so the term medical tourism appeared to meet these requirements. It has achieved great success in various countries of the world, as the economic volume of profits achieved in the Middle East and North Africa in 2017 amounted to $2.8 billion, and in Spain, for example, the Spain Cares project attracted about 200,000 medical tourists in 2019.
Without a doubt, Saudi Arabia is a distinct interface for medical tourism and hospital tourism. As the Kingdom possesses, in this period, high-class hospitals and medical personnel of a distinguished level globally, and it has become a real destination for many citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab countries for the purpose of treatment and hospitalization, as this is a promising field. It is characterized by several elements and means of success, which undoubtedly were accompanied by the ambitious vision of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in attracting tourism and raising national income from tourism of all kinds. Medical and hospital tourism represents an important and essential pillar in this day-to-day developing field.
Perhaps medical tourism is one of the important keys that provide a model solution that covers most of the aspects targeted by the Quality of Life Program. Travel for recreation and treatment is a goal for a number of tourists around the world. Forecasted statistics point that the amount of spending on medical tourism coming from GCC states to countries worldwide is estimated to reach $20 billion.
Moreover, medical or hospital tourism provides huge opportunities for investment, as the hotel, hospitality, transportation, entertainment and sports sectors become very active in response to medical tourism.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, the average stay in tourist places associated with medical tourism reaches 11 nights compared to hospitals, where the stay is estimated at about three days only. One of the reasons for the demand for this type of tourism is the desire to obtain natural treatment away from chemical medicines in hospitals, and the search for renewable treatment options while providing attractive elements in the same place, such as hotels, restaurants and relaxation offerings including massages, chiropractic, yoga and tai chi.
The city of NEOM represents one of these facades that attracts tourists to travel miles to enjoy a period of recreation in a smart, environmentally friendly city characterized by high quality of life, luxury, tourism and landscapes. The atmosphere of NEOM is similar to several tourist destinations in the Kingdom and areas with scenic views and charming nature in the heights of Asir and the sulfur water in the regions of Hail, Al-Ahsa and Al-Kharj, as well as the Riyadh region, which is characterized by the beautiful desert and red golden sands, which can be an interesting and promising therapeutic destination for all tourists in the world.
• Saad Majdy Baslom is a highly experienced director with 10+ years of leadership and specialist experience in complementary medicine practice. Baslom holds a doctorate in Traditional Chinese Medicine, a master’s in Chinese Herbology, and a master’s in Acupuncture.