Ukraine looks to the future as a medical tourism hub

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Russia’s war on Ukraine is raging, but the invaded country is already planning the future of its tourism recovery. This is the main message of Mariana Oleskiv, President of the State Agency for Tourism Development of Ukraine, who recently spoke with Investment monitor.

Oleskiv is particularly determined to rebuild Ukraine’s medical tourism industry. “Investors are interested because we already have the clinics and are attracting a lot of people before the war,” she says. “For example, in 2021 we saw a lot of people coming for treatment from the Gulf countries, especially those with back problems and difficulty walking.”

Building on the strengths of medical tourism in Ukraine

Prior to Ukraine’s invasion this year, the country was ranked among the top 20 countries visited for medical tourism. In 2016, about 13 million people traveled to Ukraine for tourism purposes, of which about 3% arrived for medical purposes.

“Even now there is potential to attract some of the investors in rehabilitation services like prosthetics,” says Oleskiv. “Unfortunately, Ukraine now has a lot of war wounded. People who have lost limbs have to learn to walk again, so there are a lot of [domestic demand] civilians and soldiers. Unfortunately, there are wars all the time in the world. Thus, Ukraine could also become a post-war rehabilitation center for people who have lost their legs or hands.

The Ukrainian government currently owns a series of health resorts and sanatoriums across the country, particularly in western Ukraine, which was far less affected by the war. For these, Oleskiv seeks to secure private investment, with reduced tax incentives as the obvious sweetener. “We know this is kind of a risky investment at the moment for many investors, but the potential [is high]that is why [we are already] plan medical tourism in Crimea once the occupation is over.

Oleskiv knows that Ukraine faces a huge perception problem. The war is largely killing tourism and investment, as evidenced by the sharp drop in tourist arrivals to Ukraine after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

However, the country’s powerful tourist industry would play an important role in Ukraine’s economic recovery after the war. “[Beyond the economic opportunity,]we hope that investors and tourists will support the reconstruction of Ukraine and fight for democratic values,” concludes Oleskiv.

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