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OPINION: Health tourism is a booming market in South Africa

Health tourism is a booming market in South Africa

By Phindile Makwakwa 

SOUTH Africa’s sunny climate along with highly skilled surgeons, state-of-the-art health-care facilities and a favourable exchange rate, make the country attractive to internationals wanting to undergo medical and

cosmetic procedures that cost much more back in their home countries.

The figures are growing of international patients turning to South Africa for not only procedures

but also for a nip here and a tuck there. Dental procedures, cosmetic and reconstruction surgery and fertility and egg-donation treatments are especially popular with international tourists, many of whom travel from other African and overseas countries.

For Europeans and travellers from the Americas and Asia, South Africa offers an affordable alternative for many cosmetic procedures, thanks to now more direct air flights offering less jet lag and our favourable rand.

For instance, a breast augmentation in South Africa could cost R50 000, while in the UK and

the US it would cost R104 000. Many cosmetic surgery patients do not want their friends back home

to know that they have undergone a cosmetic procedure, at least not initially. Presumably, they just say they are going to South Africa on holiday or “on safari”, as most say.

South Africa has truly capitalised on this market, with many medical tourism packages being sold where medical and cosmetic treatments are done in world-class facilities and combined with a post-procedure tourism experience.

As well as the favourable costs and the top-drawer medical facilities, an added bonus for the English-

speaking visitors is that they don’t have any language problems.

Health tourists generally combine their medical trips to South Africa with pre- or post-procedure holidays at hotels, spas, safari and game parks and visits to tourism hot-spots.

Ideally, they have to arrive about three days before their surgery and stay some 10 days to three weeks in the country afterwards. And as they do not want to travel alone, they usually bring their families with them to enjoy a holiday while they are having their operations and procedures and are

recuperating.

Packages are tailor-made for patients and their families. Johannesburg and Cape Town have long been popular centres for health tourism, with KwaZulu-Natal steadily making its entry into this lucrative market.

Acting CEO for Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, Phindile Makwakwa.

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