Health tourism has a long history but before 18th century, it was not considered very important. In many parts of the world like England, this type of tourism was limited to places with geysers and the areas with mineral water. They were generally used for curing different diseases including intestinal and liver diseases as well as bronchitis. Spa was very common, yet the other types of therapy such as Boleston, Harogit and tuna rice wells thrived, too. However many people travelled to these areas for recreation purposes, and especially in the 19th century people went to such places to use the geysers or hot springs.
Today, health tourism is one of the fast growing types of tourism. Below come some of the reasons for this growth:
-Body and mind health improvement (weight loss programs, better body health and stress management)
-Resting and relaxation
-Using medical services (like specialized surgery)
-Using climatic and natural features of an area for the peace of mind and body
As can be seen, health tourists are not necessary sick people. In fact, most of these people seek to use facilities to strengthen their body and mind, and the service providers in this section also encourage their customers to take preventive measures.
Nature therapy is one of the branches of health tourism which focuses on the natural and climatic features of an area; Iran has the potential for this type of tourism.
Using the healing effects of the hot springs for the treatment of diseases enjoys a special place in modern medicine.
For this reason, the areas with hot springs and geysers of useful minerals are considered as one of the tourist attractions of the world.
In Iran, the number, quality and distribution of hot springs make it as one of the most important tourist sites which is capable of nature therapy using its natural springs. Most of Iran’s hot springs are in Alborz Mountain slopes. However, the number of hot springs in the other parts of the country is also remarkable. In Iran, besides the springs, there are other types of nature therapy such as mud therapy in Baluchistan.
Another common way of nature therapy in Iran is using country summer resorts. Some of the places such as kelardasht and Javaherdeh in Mazandaran, Deylaman in Gilan, Shandiz in Mashhad and Sardasht enjoy national reputations and among these, Kelardasht and Javaherdeh are internationally known summer resorts. There are still some that can be considered as cosmopolitan areas among which the collection of hot spring in Sar-Ein is exceptional with regard to the quality of its spring and the surrounding landscapes and scenery.
In recent years, the healing effects of Urmiamuds have received a little attention in the medical journals of the world. Additionally, Javaherdeh’s reputation has made it as one of the most thriving country summer resorts which every summer houses thousands of Arab tourists from kuweit. Kelardasht had also had some success in this regard.
Gano hot spring in Hormozgan, if introduced properly, could be one of the famous tourist attentions for nature therapy especially for Persian Gulf sheikhdoms. It goes without saying that besides the mentioned area there are more than 10 important hot springs in the country that are known nationally and have the potential of becoming intentional tourist sites.
It should be noted that the hot springs are not the only means of attracting health tourists. For this area of tourism with special interests, special facilities and services with better quality are needed. Spas that commonly use the hot springs for providing services to tourists are among the specialized means of targeted tourist attraction.
There are four types of spas:
– Daily Spa: A place for providing specialized services in one day
-Destination Spa: a center in which in addition to spa, other services like healthful menus and programs for improving health and life are provided.
-Spa Hotel: a center in a hotel which provides spa and health program services.
-Therapeutic spa: a center founded by one or more physicians and specialists with the primary purpose of providing full medical and recovery services including spa. In such places, traditional therapies are also provided.
Reasons for spa and its importance for health tourism:
According to world data centers, the demand for second or third time travels to destinations which provide health tourism services in Europe, America and Japan has increased. Of course, the growth has been more noticeable where there were physically-able elderly tourists and affluent and educated young tourists.
Additionally on the basis of the information from the SPA world organization published about the recovery centers in America and Europe, the customers for spas and health tourism centers are usually the following:
-Married housewives with children over 18
This study has also reported the mean age of the users of such services to be 43 and the mean of their income as 85 thousand dollars. Moreover, it was found that skill and facial services and massage were among the most popular ones.
An analysis of the information reveals that the market for health tourism covers a wide range of tourists and is capable of turning into a stable and prosperous investment. Obviously creating such a market in an area requires the fulfillment of two necessary conditions:
-Raw materials (in this case hot springs and therapeutic mud) in the region
For Iran it seems that the above-mentioned conditions are met especially with regard to the raw materials; however, as for the loyal customers it should be mentioned that the Arab neighboring countries in the first place, for the increased presence of their tourists in recent years, and in the second place, Europe, Japan and Korea, for the history of their tourists in Iran, could be the loyal customers of such centers.
Cosmetic and specialized surgeries have also been influential factors in tourist attraction throughout the world. The boom in cosmetic surgery in Iran has enhanced the quality of such surgeries. The hospitals and surgery centers in Shiraz, Kish and Tehran can host foreign tourists especially from neighboring Arab countries.
The first point: what seems to be considered about special interests tourism namely health tourism is that the boom in this area would increase the reputation of the region with its specialized tourists activity. This in turn leads to an increase in the facilities and service centers in that special tourism center. For instance in regions where health tourism has thrived, private and governmental specialized hospitals along with different medical centers for traditional medicine and several medical colleges have been established. These centers, too, supply the required intellectual capital and specialized skills for supporting the health tourism industry.
The second point: the formation and growth of special interest tourism in a city or region requires careful planning for regional development. The managers in the region are responsible for performing within the framework of the regional development plan.