Encouraging Intersectoral Collaboration to Promote Medical Tourism in South Africa





Health and medical tourism, South African Tourism, Public healthcare, Private healthcare, National Health Insurance fund, Post Pandemic


Rebuilding is a prominent theme in a post pandemic era where economies are looking to attract all opportunities to recover. Tourism has always been a key driver to boost economies particularly in countries which are rich in cultural diversity and natural beauty. South Africa, which already has a thriving tourism industry, has seen an increase in medical tourists who are motivated by the desire to avoid high healthcare costs, long wait times for services and specific procedures that are not offered in their own countries. South Africa's private healthcare system is world-class for medical tourism because it is supported by a thriving medical insurance market. The rise of medical tourism in South Africa has stemmed from synergies formed with the private sector healthcare system because of the growth of tourism. Currently, only private sector hospitals are involved in rendering services related to medical tourism. The current rollout of the National Health Insurance (NHI) poses as an opportunity for the public healthcare sector to also benefit from the revenue generated by medical tourism, however there are challenges that exist that must be alleviated. This paper will begin with an overview of the medical tourism and healthcare sectors in South Africa based on secondary research conducted. Thereafter the empirical data highlighting challenges experienced at selected public central hospitals in South Africa will be presented. The paper will then explore the collaboration potential of the tourism and healthcare industries to overcome the challenges presented. Recommendations will be contributory in highlighting the need for revenue to restore trust in the public healthcare sector and boost medical tourism.  The empirical study, through adopting a descriptive exploratory paradigm, emphasises the quantitative method used to gather data from a purposive sample with the use of a questionnaire. Data collected from 322 respondents revealed that the daily challenges, underpinned by a severe lack of funding at the selected public central hospitals in South Africa, inhibit high quality service delivery, making the public healthcare sector an undesirable option for medical tourism.