TIRANA, August 13
General healthcare and aesthetic medicine in Albania are like night and day, particularly during a world pandemic. With a highly favorable location and affordable prices, Albania makes a great European option for health tourism compared to distant destinations like Thailand, Dubai, Brazil, or Mexico. Not to forget the fact that overseas countries might still apply travel restrictions or quarantine policies. Given the fast-changing rules, Albania could set sight on medical tourism as a way to adapt to the new normal. From common dental treatments to cosmetic surgical procedures and minimally invasive procedures, Albanian and international visitors are showing a growing interest in feeling healthier, younger, and happier with their bodies.
Even though still humble in the international health care market, Albania has started to withdraw more and more tourists each year. Medical tourist arrivals in Albania doubled during 2019. Even though the official figure confirmed by the Institute of Statistics, (INSTAT) is modest (658), the growth seems promising. Private-run hospitals in Albania improved their coordination with domestic and foreign travel agencies to provide medical tourism packages. Moreover, they are investing more in marketing to reach out to clients in new potential markets. Meanwhile, 353 foreign citizens traveled to Albania for medical reasons during January-June 2020.
The modern history of health tourism in Albanian started with international citizens seeking dental work. It was based more on word of mouth than specific promotion campaigns. Till now, Albania does not seem to have any official strategy on medical tourism promotion. The services that often combine dental tourism with vacation are promoted by the private sector.
The main reason why dental tourism is so successful is that savings can be as high as 90 percent in some cases. Who’s a potential dental tourist? Anyone who does not have dental insurance coverage could consider the option for a medical vacation.
Based on a survey on barriers to oral health in the United States and some European countries, less than half of Americans had dental insurance in 2016. The same reports show that dental coverage by country ranged from the highest rates of coverage in Germany (98%), Czech Republic (96%), Denmark (92%) and Netherlands (87%) to Greece (57%), the USA (48%) and Spain (31%) in the middle and to the lowest rates of coverage in Switzerland (21%) and Italy (21%).
This explains a recent article by turismo.al that ranks Albania as the favorite country for dental tourism for Italians.
“Dental care is not affected by the crisis, at least in Albania. Here in the past two months, the business has continued to grow significantly, despite the pandemic,” the article says while pointing out that, the coronavirus caused a complete lockdown in nearby Italy, one of the worst-hit countries by the global pandemic. The main reasons why Italians prefer Albania include geographical proximity, savings up to 50 percent, high-quality services, and hospitality.
The aesthetic medicine industry expects a bright future
The unprecedented lockdowns had a major impact on the way how people regard physical wellness and personal appearance. They are treating appearance issues in depth.
Liposuction, rhinoplasty, hair transplants, breast augmentation/lift, breast reduction, laser hair removal, Botox treatments, gastric balloons, facelifts, eyelid surgery, lip augmentation, ear correction surgery, jaw surgery, tummy tuck, buttock reshaping surgery are some of the most popular treatments offered in Albanian clinics.
Currently, most of the clients are Albanian, but there are also foreign citizens seeking those services. Most of the procedures are done by qualified Albanian or foreign doctors from Italy, Turkey, and Greece, at more affordable prices compared to 2019.
During the last year, clinics saw increased interest from British citizens, especially for IVF procedures. The lack of funds, the lay-offs in the medical staff, the long-awaiting lists, and the insecurities regarding Brexit have caused the British patients to look for low-cost health treatments, abroad.