The Egyptian Wellness & Medical Tourism Summit took place in Cairo, Egypt March 30th through April 1st 2010. With no current Medical Tourism initiatives, this summit was Egypt’s first step in developing a Medical Tourism Program. Several experts in the field of Medical Tourism were present including key note speaker, Renee-Marie Stephano, President of the Medical Tourism Association. Renee’s opening speech aimed to identify the Medical Tourism opportunities available for Egypt and discussed how to develop a sustainable program there.
“The key to a sustainable program is the balance of investment in the international healthcare and the education of the local populations,” stated Renée-Marie Stephano.
The conference covered current issues in wellness and medical tourism, health tourism partnerships, the role of the travel agent and medical tourism facilitator and successful marketing strategies for wellness & medical tourism destinations. The summit aimed to stimulate the wellness and medical tourism market for Egypt with the goal of gaining a larger sector of the medical and health tourism markets.
Though Egypt is in the first stage to become a Medical Tourism Destination, they have already taken a huge step in order to find out more information on the number of patients currently traveling. Upon arrival to Cairo International, the immigration form at the airport asks why you are traveling, with one of the options listed as Medical Procedure. They estimate about 40,000 patients from Libya have traveled to Egypt for this reason based on the information provided by this card.
With attendance from the office of the Minister of Health and the Tourism Authority, this is a good sign of the support and interest needed to make Egypt a top destination.
Dr. Abdelkarim Kamel, Executive Medical Tourism Director, Egyptian Ministry of Health stated, “The summit was a great success and very well organized. The summit is a starting point that will position Egypt as a world medical service provider.”
Medical Tourism can be defined as the pursuit of medical care abroad and the simultaneous engagement in more conventional forms of tourism. Patients travel for better quality, better availability, more access to healthcare procedures or treatment, or for better pricing.
Wellness tourism can be defined as spa and relaxation treatments where surgery is not involved. Health tourism encompasses all treatments that enhance a sense of well-being internally and externally from spa treatments, cosmetic surgery, dental elective surgery and essential surgery to remedy an injury or illness.
Egypt has a huge opportunity to gain a share in this market, as they have a strong advantage. Egypt is not just a major tourism destination; they have strong infrastructure in accommodations, beautiful climate and close proximity to the European marketplace.
Egypt has a longstanding history of medical and wellness. One symbol you will see throughout Egyptian history is the Eye of Horus. This symbol of healing and wholeness was worn as a protective amulet by ancient Egyptians and is also the origin of the symbol “Rx” used in medical prescriptions.
There are three known medical texts originating from ancient Egypt, The Kahun Gynecological Papyrus, The Ebers Papyrus, and The Edwin Smith Papyrus, which details the extent of knowledge of anatomy, disease, hygiene, and healing. It is also where ancient Egyptians invented the concept of holistic wellness.
For them, wellness, beauty and medicine were inseparable. Some of the popularity in Egypt as a destination for medical tourism stems from its therapeutic climate and national remedies. Patients can take advantage of its natural spring water and other natural resources. Even Socrates was known to sing the praises of Egypt’s healing therapies some thousand years ago.
As a result, Egypt can position itself to offer products such as plastic surgery, dentistry, eye treatments, oncology, pain management, health restoration and specialty procedures such as Gamma Knife.
However, there are some threats that Egypt needs to overcome including direct competition from Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia whom currently have a strong Medical Tourism Program.
Robert Travers, an International Tourism Consultant who is advising the Egyptian Tourism Authority and was a speaker at the summit, states “Egypt’s competitive advantage stems for its position as an attractive and popular tourist destination, increased investments in wellness tourism development in tourist destinations and strong assets in accommodation and meetings and conference facilities.
Furthermore, Egypt has a long tradition of medicine and respected medical practitioners. Other advantages include the reasonable cost of living, proximity to the European market and an ideal weather for recuperating and health restoration. As a result the country is witnessing growing healthcare investment.”
The name of the country, Egypt, is also Kemet which also means “Black Land.” This is in reference to fertile black soils of the Nile flood plains. Every year, a predictable flooding of the Nile replenishes the soil and gives the country its harvest for the year. It’s also known as the Gift of the Nile.
The Arab Republic of Egypt is a country mainly in North Africa, with a peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and includes parts of the Sahara Desert and the Libyan Desert, also referred to as the “red land.” Egypt has been a republic since June 1953, with President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak as president for the past 28 years. Egypt’s economy depends mainly on agriculture, petroleum exports, media and tourism.
The capital city of Egypt is Cairo, renowned for centuries as a center of learning, culture and commerce. Egypt is famous for its ancient civilization and some of the world’s most famous monuments, including the Giza Pyramid Complex and its Great Sphinx.
The Egyptians were one of the first major civilizations to code design elements in art and architecture. The wall painting done in the service of the Pharaohs followed a rigid code of rules and meanings. Egyptian music is a rich mixture of indigenous, Mediterranean, African and western elements and dance is also a presence in the Egyptian culture.
In Old Cairo, you can see a traditional dance performed by the Al-Tannoura Traditional Troup. The dance was performed over 700 years ago by the Sufi, called the Tahtib (stave) dance, performed by men. The performer “turns” or whirls endlessly while manipulating skirts in a colorful display creating a cultural, spiritual and entertaining performance.
The climate in Egypt is moderate all year round. Their national currently is the Egyptian Pound (LE). Crime is rare in Egypt and you will find trained, English-speaking tourist police at most of the tourist venues.
Egyptian cuisine is delicious, typically moderately spicy, and complete with a wide range of dishes to suit all tastes. Fresh hummus, grilled kebabs, flat local Egyptian bread and fresh seafood is served on the coast and along the Nile. If you are feeling adventurous you can even try the famous stuffed pigeon with rice. You will also find plenty of fresh juices and steaming mint tea offered everywhere you travel within Egypt.
Egyptian handicrafts reflect the country’s long history, with goods such as jewelry, papyrus, perfumes and spices. Arabic is the official language spoken by all Egyptians, although English is widespread along with French, German and Italian.
The Pyramids of Giza
Close to Cairo, you can travel to see one of the greatest wonders of the world. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only wonder of the ancient world still in existence. They are over 4,000 years old and were the burial grounds for Kings Cheops, Kefren and Mykerinos. The largest and oldest is Cheop’s Pyramid, simply known as the “Great Pyramid.” Kefren’s pyramid ,Cheop’s son and successor, still has its limestone cap intact, showing the smooth surface the pyramids used to have.
The Great Sphinx stands guard at the hallowed entrance to the Pyramids of Giza. The human-headed, lion-bodied Sphinx is the oldest of all Egypt’s stone sculptures. The long-lost nose, which was most likely deteriorated by sand storms, has made it all the more iconic.
Some of the oldest treasures and relics can be found at the Cairo Egyptian Museum. There are over 136,000 items on display that date back to 3,100 BC. The museum is renowned for holding the finest collection of Egyptian antiques in the world, and it is a must see while visiting Cairo.
The Red Sea
The Red Sea coast is known for therapeutic qualities as well as its amazing recreational diving sites. It is known as one of the best locations in the world for curing psoriasis, according to the National Research Centre.
Egypt’s Red Sea coast runs from the Gulf of Suez to the Sudanese border. It has over 800 fish species, white sand beaches and mangrove lagoons that line the coast.
Egypt ~ The Next Steps
So what is the next step for Egypt? The creation of a Healthcare Cluster. Some of the most successful destinations today are those who have established a cluster. A Healthcare Cluster can be defined as an independent organization of hospitals, clinics, medical professionals and the government in a specific city, state, or region.
A Healthcare Cluster is funded by all the participants in the Healthcare Cluster and represents the interests of all the members and the cluster may also be supported by government funding. A Healthcare Cluster’s purpose is to promote their members and to build a reputation as having extremely high quality healthcare.
“We should not deal with the summit as a meeting that came to an end; rather consider it as the first step in the creation of a national wellness and medical tourism strategy for the country,” stated Mostafa Hunter, Lead Expert for the Healthcare Sector, Ministry of Investment of Egypt.
The Medical Tourism Association looks forward to working with Egypt in organizing a workshop to promote education amongst the doctors, hospitals, clinics, government and all other interested parties. We also look forward to a 2nd Annual Wellness and Medical Tourism Summit for October 2011.
There is an Egyptian saying that once you drink the waters from the Nile, you will have to drink once again and return. Whether you return for the warm welcoming people, the great tourism sites, for wellness and relaxation, or just for the enjoyment of Egypt, there is a passion you will feel for Egypt that will make you return once again.
About the Author
Jessica Johnson is the Director of Operations for the Medical Tourism Association, also known as the MTA, the first international non-profit trade association for the medical tourism industry. Jessica is involved in the business development of the MTA and operational support. Her responsibilities span the range of business development, administrative, financial, operational and I/T support systems. She oversees and helps implement all global projects the MTA works with. Jessica provides recruitment, coordination and retention support for members of the Medical Tourism Association. Ms. Johnson received her degree at the University of Florida for Business. She may be contacted at Jessica@MedicalTourismAssociation.com