The Roundtable Exploring Health Tourism gathered a group of international experts in Budapest, Hungary, to better understand and explore the growing segment of wellness and medical tourism. The meeting was convened by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the European Travel Commission (ETC), as part of their joint research programme, with the support of the Hungarian Tourism Agency.
The two-day event held in Budapest gathered experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Union (EU), the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the European Spas Association, the Global Wellness Institute and Spaincares among others. Representatives from the health-related tourism sector from Hungary, Lithuania, Malaysia and Mexico attended the event.
Gusztáv Bienerth, Hungarian Commissioner for Tourism, highlighted the importance of health-related tourism in Hungary’s tourism sector, as well as the role of the country in the global market of health tourism, while underlining the relevance of the event.
Discussions were based on the ongoing ETC and UNWTO research on health tourism, a complex and not yet well-defined segment. This report is the first attempt to set a coherent conceptualization of health tourism and define the motivations behind travelers looking for health-related services.
“The need to better understand an emerging, global, complex and rapidly changing phenomenon such as wellness and medical tourism has become essential to tap into its growth potential”, said Márcio Favilla, UNWTO Executive Director for Operational Programmes and Institutional Relations.
“For ETC and UNWTO it is very important that we provide tourism authorities, managers and experts with a better understanding of the health tourism phenomenon and jointly cooperate to identify and provide a consistent terminology that lays the foundations for this promising sector”, said Eduardo Santander, Executive Director of ETC.
Participants debated the taxonomy proposed in the research to agree on a consistent terminology to define and describe the system of travelling for health purposes. Furthermore, the Roundtable explored the latest trends shaping health tourism and how tourism destinations can tap into these opportunities.
The final report establishing common grounds for a health-related tourism taxonomy will be published by the end of 2016.
Full list of participants: the World Health Organization, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the World Travel and Tourism Council, the European Spas Association, the Global Wellness Institute, Spaincares, the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, the Mexican Council for the Medical Tourism Industry, the Lithuania Medical Tourism Cluster, the Lithuania State Department of Tourism, the Hungarian Tourism Agency, the Hungarian Hotel Association, the Danubius Hotels, Xellum and Intuition Communication.
The research ‘Exploring Health Tourism’ commissioned by ETC and UNWTO was prepared by László Puczkó and Melanie Smith (Xellum), with the support of the International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ).