Just as it starts to recover from the last conflict, Lebanese medical tourism is being damaged by the problems of neighbour Syria.
Tourism and medical tourism to many countries in the region have been suffering from the civil wars and uprisings in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and other countries. Even if the country itself is peaceful, the perception of tourists means that it takes a long time for normality to resume. Medical tourism tends to be harder hit, as while a normal tourist can get home quickly if danger erupts, it is not so easy if you are being treated in hospital. So medical tourists are being more careful about where they go.
The Beirut Eye Specialist Hospital (BESH)
has suffered from this heightened risk, even though Lebanon itself is peaceful. Since problems began in Syria, the number of patients from Syria has dropped to a trickle and numbers have fallen from across the Arab world.
Like it or not, medical tourism exists in the political and economic world around it, not in a protected bubble. Lebanon has an extra problem in that many medical tourists from the Arab world came through Syria. Economic problems at home are also reducing overseas numbers.
While competitors Dubai and Jordan have huge government support for medical tourism, the handful of hospitals and clinics in Lebanon have no support at all. Politics led to many Libyans going to Jordan for medical treatment, and the difficulties of getting paid may mean that Jordan regrets how much they pushed for that business.
Although some Gulf countries pay for some of their people to get treated overseas, Lebanon is totally dependent on self-pay patients.