We reveal the country’s true potential as a medical and wellness tourism destination.
When you need to spend four hours a day on dialysis during your vacation, you want to make sure that the other 20 will be perfect. This is exactly what 45-year-old Edinburgh patient D.S. was looking for after suffering acute kidney failure that had nearly cost him his life during a trip to France with his wife. After researching the medical facilities available at various destinations where they could combine a holiday with his treatment, the couple chose to spend 10 days in sunny Greece, splitting their time between Athens and Crete. The friend who told me their story assures me they had a wonderful time. On the island, a member of staff from a local clinic would pick up the patient from his hotel at 6.30 am sharp, take him for treatment and bring him back at 10.30 am, after which he was free to enjoy the charms of Crete for rest of the day. He also used his European Health Insurance Card, so that cost was not a serious concern.
This story is but one among thousands and demonstrates just one of the many categories of medical services offered in Greece. It also illustrates something that most Greeks and visitors do not know: that the country which attracts more than 25 million visitors a year from around the world, mainly for its sun, sea and antiquities, is also equipped with all the facilities and services needed to have a dynamic presence in the rather “closed” global health and wellness tourism market. The worldwide value of this market is hard to pinpoint, but international estimates put it at anything between $5 billion and $440 billion.
The facts are simple: Greece is a safe European country, very accessible, with state-of-the-art private medical facilities and highly skilled healthcare professionals. Its natural environment is extremely diverse and, in many parts of the country, pristine: from high mountains with crisp, clean air, to ancient forests and a lacework of sandy beaches with crystalline bathing waters. Its mild Mediterranean climate is ranked among the best in the world, without violent fluctuations in temperature or weather phenomena. The bounty of its land and sea, moreover, has shaped its quintessentially Mediterranean cuisine, which experts agree has multiple health benefits: its emphasis on extra-virgin olive oil, honey, wine, nutrient rich seafood, fresh vegetables and pulses is a quality that has distinguished it since ancient times. Its rich cultural heritage, local habits and customs, the laidback lifestyle and the hospitality of its people are assets cherished by visitors from far and wide. In many senses, Greece is the epitome of joie de vivre.
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