How Kenya can unlock its medical tourism potential

BD Medical Tourism

Globally, the medical tourism sector has experienced an increasing demand in recent years.

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Globally, the medical tourism sector has experienced an increasing demand in recent years as individuals seek high-quality and cost-effective medical treatments across international borders.

Healthcare and tourism are said to be the fastest growing industries in the world with Medical Value Travel (MVT) being promoted as a fusion product of these industries.

According to Ken Research, a global market research firm, the global medical tourism market is expected to surpass Sh5.2 trillion ($40 billion) by 2025, driven by factors like the ageing global population, increasing healthcare disparities and advancements in medical technology.

A study conducted by India’s Ministry of Tourism estimated that 14 million people travel across the borders for medical tourism. Thailand, Mexico, the United States of America, Singapore, India, Brazil, Turkey, and Taiwan are top destinations in MVT.

Kenya enjoys a strong reputation among its East African neighbours from which it attracts referrals. According to the Tourism Sector Performance Report for January-August 2022, 7,833 people came to Kenya solely to seek medical treatment. According to the Health ministry, Kenya attracts an average of 5,000 medical tourists every year from Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.

Thanks to the availability of medical insurance cover, the numbers continue to rise steadily. This trend reflects not only Kenya's growing status as a medical hub, but also the transformative role of insurance providers in improving access to healthcare.

One of Kenya's greatest assets in the realm of medical tourism is its healthcare infrastructure. Our country is home to several state-of-the-art hospitals equipped with modern technology and highly trained medical professionals. Kenya boasts of Internationally accredited hospitals such as Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH), Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), the Nairobi Hospital, Mater Misericordiae, MP Shah, Gertudes Children’s Hospital, among other notable facilities.

There is also an array of specialised Centres of Excellence such as the KUTRRH cyclotron machine for cancer management and AKUH’s Coronary Centre of Excellence. The East Africa Kidney Institute, now under construction, is set to become a Centre of Excellence for training on treating and managing kidney problems in the region.

Secondly, Kenya offers significant cost advantages compared to traditional medical tourism destinations in Europe, North America, and Asia.

By offering tailored insurance packages that cater to the specific needs of medical tourists, Minet not only provides financial protection but also ensures a seamless healthcare journey for patients.

However, Kenya needs to embark on a strategic campaign to promote itself as a premier destination for healthcare services. This would entail targeted marketing efforts aimed at key markets known for medical tourism like the Middle East, Eastern Europe and neighbouring African countries.

In addition, government agencies, healthcare providers, insurers and tourism stakeholders must work hand in hand to create an enabling environment that promotes transparency, quality assurance and patient safety.

As the world increasingly embraces the concept of MVT, Kenya needs to seize the opportunity and reap the economic benefits that come with it.

By capitalizing on its healthcare infrastructure, skilled workforce, competitive pricing, and strategic partnerships, Kenya can unlock its vast potential and position itself as a preferred destination for medical travellers seeking quality care and unparalleled experiences

In conclusion, Kenya possesses all the ingredients necessary to become a leading player in the global medical tourism industry. 

The writer is the General Manager for Managed Medical Care at Minet Kenya.

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