Edited by Neil Lunt, Daniel Horsfall and Johanna Hanefeld
Chapter 39: Putting the thermal back into medical tourism
This chapter explores some of the definitional and practical challenges surrounding health and medical tourism and travel, arguing that thermal bath tourism which is based on medical or healing waters should be included in medical tourism definitions. In many countries of the world, thermal baths continue to be supported by governments and doctors as a resource for medical tourism. Mineral-rich healing thermal waters are used by patients as part of their therapy, treatment or rehabiliation. This includes Central and Eastern European countries, Baltic States, Russian-speaking countries, and many countries which have hot springs which were or could be used for healing purposes, for example South Africa, Japan and China. The chapter draws on the authors’ research using a health tourism survey of 420 operators. This showed that after destination spas, spas that have natural healing resources are becoming the most popular facility for international tourists and that therapies using natural resources with proven benefit (e.g. water, mud) are the most popular activities. Several examples are provided including a more in-depth case study of Hungary, which was selected because it contains such a high concentration of thermal waters that are used extensively for medical purposes.
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