Medical tourism has been developed at the highest level in many countries, including in Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Israel. Thousand of tourists visit these countries every year. This interesting direction of tourism has real development perspectives in Georgia too, even more so, our country was always famous for its special spa resorts.
Georgia is rich of spa, ski and sea resorts. There are 103 resorts and 182 resort places in the country, according to verified reports.
Despite huge development potential, some of these places are left without due attention and therefore, they have ceased existing as resorts, in practice. Tourism sector representatives assert that there are many unique and special places in Georgia in this respect.
The Caucasus Business Week (CBW) has examined medical tourism development perspectives in Georgia.
The head of Archil Khomasuridze Institute of Reproductology talks about the field development. As to commercial potential, reproductive health is the key direction in medical sector in this respect, Archil Khomsuridze said.
Consequently, medical tourism has huge perspectives. Several years ago Zhordania Institute had plans for arranging its own hotel, but the project implementation was protracted, because the Authorities of Saakashvili expelled Reproductology Institute from Zhordania Clinic. The institute managed to restore operation only 4 months ago, Khomasuridze said.
Ratio of foreign patients of the clinic is 10-12%. Namely, childless couples come from Turkey, Iran, Arab countries, Russia, Ukraine. According to the reproductive scientists, there are a number of laws in Georgia that, unlike other countries, are liberal and make the field more attractive. Consequently, the services are cheaper and that’s why foreign patients show interest in our services, Khomasuridze said. Over the past years, nothing has changed in this country to improve the situation in this sector. Georgian People should change worldview, first of all, and education and information awareness level should be also improved, he said.
Travel companies and medical sector should unite efforts to develop medical tourism in the country, Khomasuridze pointed out. «So far they cannot realize that this direction has huge perspectives in Georgia. Huge job should be performed to valuably develop tourism direction in Georgia. However, medical tourism development needs other components too. Travel companies and spa resorts should cooperate. Naturally, due infrastructure should be also arranged», Khomasuridze noted.
Nata Kvachantiradze, head of Georgian Tourism Association, explains that medical tourism is a genuinely interesting direction and it is very popular in various parts of the world. There are countries, which has attained much success in this field, she noted.
«We are happy that last period medical tourism popularization has intensified in our country. The Caucasus, including Georgia, is rich of mineral and thermal waters and this enables us to develop spa resorts in many regions. Resort zones are special in this respect that exist almost in all parts of Georgia», Kvachantiradze noted. Medical tourism cannot be developed without development of medical sector. One thing is also very important: comfort and infrastructure. We have very good resorts, but huge job should be performed in this direction anyway, she said.
«Many resorts satisfy highest standards – Sairme, Borjomi, Tskaltubo – these places are loaded maximally over the past years», Kvachantiradze pointed out.
Development of various spa resorts would be wonderful, as well as arrangement of due infrastructure and these activities should create main preconditions for attracting tourists, she noted. Medical tourism development is one of the priority directions for private sector and state structures also support these activities, she added.
Georgia has much potential for medical tourism development, Kvachantiradze said.
«Medical tourism does not imply only accommodation of people at resorts, it also includes medical component. At this stage, members of Georgian Tourism Association have engaged in various activities. We offer various services to our consumers. In March we were invited to one of the major tourism exhibitions in Italy (sports and medical directions). We met with many partners there, signed contract agreements and this signifies number of visitors will increase in Georgia», Kvachantiradze noted. At this stage, medical tourism is being developed in Georgia and the existing infrastructure cannot satisfy international standards, she said.
Giorgi Utiashvili, head of Akhtala spa resort, explains that medical tourism has huge potential in Georgia, but infrastructure should be developed, first of all. Regretfully, many spa resorts lack for due infrastructure, he added. There are many investors interested in spa resorts development in Georgia, but at the final stage all of them refrain from investing money in this field, Utiashvili noted.
At this stage, Akhtala remains in state ownership and no investor has showed interest in its development. In 2012-2013 the resort neighboring territory was rehabilitated, but nothing more has made since then. Despite outdated infrastructure, visitors arrive in the resort on season anyway (June-November), including Georgian citizens, tourists from Russia, Azerbaijan, Israel and European countries. The resort rehabilitation plan has been prepared and now investor should be attracted, Utiashvili noted.
“There is much interest, but they come and go, without bringing specific proposals. A good sanatorium should be arranged with a good hotel and canteen, bathroom, mud treatment should be automated. However, no investor has appeared. The Authorities take efforts, invite investors, but it is impossible to enforce someone to make investments”, Utiashvili said and added that about 8-10 million USD investments are required to develop Akhtala resort. Averaged daily price is 70 GEL per person in Akhtala with three meals a day, mud treatment, physiotherapy, he added.
Akhtala was included in privatization list in 2015. Today, National Agency of State Property says that 99.68% stake of the facility has been put out for privatization for 4 340 405 GEL. According to the Agency information, an investor must arrange at least 80-suite hotel, maintain medical profile and invest 6 million GEL.
Rehabilitation of Akhtala resort located in Gurjaani started in April 2012 after World Bank allocated 3.5 million GEL loan. The new park will include a cycle and running tracks, children playground, recreational zones and training equipments.
Akhtala is an only resort for mud treatment in Georgia. Akhtala mud fits for healing bones and joints, peripheral nervous system, gynecological, dermatological, urological and other diseases.