While many countries are new to medical tourism, Switzerland has been a destination for people seeking medical treatment and improvements to their health for well over a hundred years. Already known as a travel and tourism destination, Switzerland is now prepared to promote itself as a medical tourism destination. Switzerland, with its mountain resorts and its spa tradition, is well placed to benefit from the growth of health and wellness tourism. It does not offer low prices for treatment, accommodation or food; but offers high quality in a pleasant environment.
Medical tourism is forecast to grow by 20% a year between 2010-2015, as a result of increased and vigorous marketing activities from Switzerland Tourism
. A study produced by the independent research body Gottlieb Duttweiler Instituts
(GDI) in Zurich into Switzerland's potential as a destination shows that the country is well placed to be a leader in this area. According to GDI, 30,000 people visit Switzerland every year for health reasons, spending in excess of CHF1 billion on treatment. Including family expenditure, Switzerland Tourism estimates that CHF500, 000 of tourism spending is derived from health tourism. The ‘Health and Wellness Tourism in Switzerland’ report looked at data from 2006 to 2010 and makes projections for the next five years.
Swiss Trade Promotion Center (Osec) and the Swiss Tourism Association jointly run Swiss Health to promote health, wellness and medical tourism. It is targeting the main source countries of Russia, the Middle East and the fast-growing countries such as China and India; as well as wealthy European neighbours. The alliance is aiming to help smaller hospitals with their marketing to wealthy patients abroad. The Association of Swiss Hospitals (Verband der Schweizer Spitäler), which represents 370 public and private health institutions, estimates that currently 1 to 2% of all patients come from outside Switzerland.
The country has a strong strategic advantage over its regional competitors in medical tourism, thanks to existing infrastructure and training of professionals. Moreover, while many countries are using price to compete in a crowded market, medical tourism in Switzerland concentrates on quality, personal care and professionalism. Unaffected by the financial crisis and now attracting new customers, the future looks bright for this area of business for the Swiss. The country has a high density of clinics and rehabilitation centres, as well as spa and wellness destinations.