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“Our aim is to position Switzerland in the area of health tourism among the top five destinations in the premium sector,” Letizia Elia, Business Development Manager at Switzerland Tourism ST. In 2019, ST looked for suitable clinics and hospitals as partners in health tourism. The focus of communications is on medical expertise and the quality of the infrastructure – in combination with its location in a pristine natural setting and a relaxing environment. During the selection process, care was also taken to ensure that the partners could be marketed internationally, for instance, because they offer unique treatments or a high-quality service.This, with the aim of positioning Switzerland as one of the world’s leading health tourism destinations.
By the end of 2019, ST had succeeded in attracting a total of 26 clinics and hospitals to join such a partnership. “The clinics reflect the wide range of services offered in Switzerland, but share characteristics such as the quality of care, high-level medical competence and state-of-the-art infrastructure”. explains Elia. This means that all the conditions are in place to position Switzerland in the entire spectrum of health tourism, from prevention to cutting-edge medicine.
Potential of CHF 245 million
Global health trends, increased mobility and digitalisation are increasing the opportunities for health tourism. 35,900 patients from abroad were treated in Swiss hospitals or clinics in 2017. According to ST estimates, international patients and their accompanying relatives now generate around 490,000 overnight stays in Switzerland (excluding hospital stays). Tourism turnover (outside of clinics/hospitals, for example overnight stays, excursions, etc.) is estimated at CHF 196 million annually. ST considers that a more active promotion of Swiss health tourism could increase tourism turnover by 25% by 2022 to reach CHF 245 million.
China, Russia and the Gulf countries as target markets
ST offers its partner medical institutions the opportunity to increase their visibility in foreign markets thanks to the strong ST local network (33 regional offices worldwide). ST primarily focuses on the three most promising markets: China, Russia and the Gulf states have the highest demand for health tourism services and guest groups from these countries have high spending power. According to Tourism Monitor Switzerland (TMS), the average daily expenditure per guest coming from these markets is on average between CHF 250 and CHF 380 (excluding travel to and from their home country). The average across all markets is CHF 165. In addition, visitors to these clinics usually extend their time in Switzerland with overnights in nearby hotels and also put up their companions in these hotels, as ST has found in its analyses.
In the first quarter of 2020, ST launched its own website and magazine. The plan is to further develop the showcase for Swiss health tourism by participating in various specialist and public events in China, Russia and the Gulf states. The Hirslanden Group has already reached a cooperative agreement with the Giardino Hotels for its detox programme. Such cooperative agreements should be promoted in the future.
The media reported widely on the launch of health tourism with cross-sector cooperation, for example in daily the newspaper “Blick” (German) or the tourism trade paper “htr” (German).