About one million tourists travel to Mauritius every year
An increasing number of these people are "medical tourists"
Mauritius, an island-nation nestled off the southeast coast of the African mainland, is known for its beautiful beaches and wildlife. Every year one million tourists travel to the island but not all are visiting for the scenery.
Around 18,000 “medical tourists” are taking the trip over the Indian Ocean to use the country’s hospitals. And the sector is growing, as heavy investments in infrastructure and human resources are underway to attract more foreigners.
“Most of the hospitals have been doing investment in terms of equipment, in terms of the specialty that they are also delivering,” Atma Narasiah of the Mauritius Board of Investment tells CNN.
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Healthcare centers like Centre de Chirurgie Esthetique are taking advantage of the country’s attractions – the beauty, luxury and tranquility – to create clinics where visitors can feel at ease.
“The concept is being created to take care of people, to pamper them, till they feel well,” says Gérard Guidi, founder of medical center Centre de Chirurgie Esthetique.
Guidi says he established the medical center to cater to a select group of people: travelers who seek medical care in the midst of pleasure.
When Guidi founded Centre de Chirurgie Esthetique in 2000, he had only 3 hair transplant patients for the first few months. In 2016, his clinic had over 2500 patients, 85% of whom were foreigners.
The future of healthcare
Mauritius’s immigration policy encourages people from countries like India, China, and the US to visit as in most cases visas are issued on arrival. More than 36% of the medical tourists that arrived in 2016 were from France, as French is widely spoken.
However, medical tourism isn’t an industry without its critics. The International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ) reported that African countries were losing huge amounts in revenue from outbound medical tourists seeking treatment in places like India, stalling the development of local health care.
Last year, Nigeria’s President Buhari was criticized for receiving healthcare in London.
For Mauritius, Narasiah sees the economic and healthcare potential. “We are trying to attract investors also from abroad to come and set up specialty hospitals, for example for treatment of cancer,” Narasiah tells CNN.