GEORGIA'S POTENTIAL TO BECOME HUB OF MEDICAL TOURISM
The growing popularity of medical tourism is attracting attention in Georgia.
From Turkey and Thailand to Costa Rica, countries around the globe are building medical infrastructure and treatment programs to attract patients, who are, in a growing trend, seeking care abroad. Georgia has plenty to attract foreign patients, according to Ketevan Zurashvili, the Chief Specialist of the Department of Tourism Products and Small-Infrastructure Development at the Georgian National Tourism Agency.
"There is a huge interest in medical tourism from neighboring countries. We even provide them with special offers for recovery resorts or other services, depending on what they are interested in. But basically there is great demand for musculoskeletal system and gastrointestinal tract diagnosis, and resort treatments," she told Investor.ge. Two percent of the total annual number of international tourists to Georgia come seeking medical treatment, according to the 2013 International Visitors Survey data.
Tapping into the Trend
Zurashvili noted that in order to "reach the potential" of Georgia's medical-tourism sector, the country must tap into current trends in the global market.
Currently, the administration is working on spa and fitness community promotion. During the year, they participated in twenty international exhibitions, in the European as well as Asian and Middle Eastern countries, where they present the country's potential.
In addition, Georgia hosts press and information tours. Last year, about 300 journalists visited the country; they traveled and got acquainted with Georgia and sent back materials to their countries about Georgia.
Affordable, High-Quality Treatment
Patients from Armenia and Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey, Israel and the Czech Republic - as well as from many other countries - are already traveling to Georgia seeking treatment for infertility, dentistry, digestion problems and dozens of other issues.
In Vitro, a well-known fertilization clinic in the South Caucasus, has been receiving patients from Europe and U.S. as well more than a decade. The clinic offers high-quality treatments for ICSI, IVF, egg donation, surrogacy, laparoscopic gynecological surgeries, therapeutic and surgical treatments, and all kinds of various other gynecological and reproductive disease diagnoses and treatments.
Dr. Nato Khonelidze, a professor and founder of In Vitro, told Investor.ge that Georgia provides an important service for couples seeking infertility treatment.
"Since many European countries don't allow donation and surrogacy, in this case Georgia is a very attractive country. We receive 20-25 international patients monthly," she said.
In addition, patients from the UK, France, Germany, U.S., Australia, South Korea, Romania, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine travel to Georgia to receive hair-loss treatments.
Rusudan Buachidze founded Medical Travel Georgia LTD in 2015 to promote Georgia as a medical tourism destination and to make high-demand and high-quality medical care accessible and affordable for international patients.
She began to operate as an inbound medical tourism facilitator and collaborates with Georgia's leading medical centers in all areas of medical tourism, including fertilization, plastic surgery, dentistry, and cardiac surgery.
"We create a comfortable environment for medical travelers who take advantage of medical tourism in Georgia and provide them during their trips with all the necessary and extra services such as organization of pre-consultations, transportation, accommodations, accompaniment to the clinics, twenty-four hour online support, and sightseeing tours," Buachidze told Investor.ge.
"Our mission is to create a remarkable experience for each medical tourist."