In the corridors of a Dead Sea hotel southwest of the capital Amman, Ali Al-Hajjaji is shaded by the umbrella of the pool seat, watching the children swimming, on his last day of recovery in Jordan after a treatment period that lasted about two weeks.
After a long sigh, Al-Hajjaji, who is from Yemen in his fifties, says that he chose Jordan, after advice from one of his relatives, to conduct comprehensive examinations in a private hospital, after suffering for a long time from respiratory diseases and a skin problem.
He asserts that the doctors in the hospital advised him to spend days in the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, because of its highly salty waters and mineral-rich beaches that have the ability to cure chronic skin diseases.
Al-Hajjaji says, “I heard from a cousin of mine about the development of medicine in Jordan, and that it is an Arab country, not far from us.
Jordan ranks first in terms of medical tourism in the Middle East and North Africa and among the top ten countries in the world, according to the President of the Private Hospitals Association, Dr. Fawzi Al-Hammoury.
Hammouri added to Reuters that Jordan was witnessing severe competition in attracting medical tourism with neighboring countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon, but after political conditions in those countries, the Kingdom maintained its position.
He points out that Turkey competes with Jordan a lot in this sector, but stresses that “we cannot compare the best due to the difference in area, population and number of hospitals between the two countries.”
The number of patients who entered Jordan for treatment and hospitalization reached about 85,000 patients during the first half of this year, according to Hammouri, who confirmed that these numbers are good compared to 2020 and 2021, but less than 2019.
Hammouri added, “There is no doubt that Corona is still negatively affecting tourism in general and treatment in particular, but since the beginning of this year we have started to feel a gradual recovery.”
He stresses that other challenges facing this sector other than the pandemic are restricted nationalities that need prior security approvals before entering the Kingdom, “such as the Syrian, Libyan, Sudanese, and Iraqi, in addition to the Nigerian.”
He points out that the Gulf market is the traditional and highly targeted market, as it includes the largest percentage of patients who prefer treatment in Jordan.
Among the other challenges that hinder the progress of medical tourism in Jordan, Hammouri points to the high operational cost, especially the cost of energy, and the prices of medical supplies and medicines compared to neighboring countries.
Hammouri says that a country like Jordan enjoys security, stability, the availability of qualified hospitals and doctors, in addition to a mild climate and many places for recreation, in which the medical tourism sector needs more government support and attention to continue to compete and attract visitors.
Jordan receives about 200,000 visitors for treatment and hospitalization annually, while the income generated by medical tourism exceeds one billion dollars.
There are 121 hospitals in Jordan that provide services to Jordanian and non-Jordanian patients. The number of private hospitals is 71, while government hospitals are 33, and 15 are military hospitals, in addition to two university hospitals.