Startup Tapping Iran Health Tourism Potentials - Financial Tribune
By Mohammad Affianian
Published Date: Thursday, November 09, 2017
Renowned for its world-famous historical monuments, UNESCO heritage sites and natural beauty, Iran is expected to be mainly favored by cultural visitors and Nature enthusiasts. Although that's true, other fields of the hospitality sector, such as health tourism, also give the Middle East nation a competitive edge.
Hoping to capitalize on such potential is an Internet-based startup that, according to its founders, has experienced unexpected success in attracting health tourists since its inception in early summer.
Speaking to Financial Tribune, Mohammad Nasri, CEO and co-founder of Tehran-based Ariamedtour, said, "From the day we launched our website, we have been inundated with requests from around the globe, including from neighboring countries."
Drawing on the traditional role of Iran as a regional medical hub, the group is offering professional treatments ranging from cosmetic surgery to general surgeries and cancer treatment.
"Iran has always been a medical attraction for citizens of neighboring countries, but we are one of the very first firms to streamline those services on an online platform," he said.
Iran has set the ambitious goal of attracting 20 million foreign tourists annually by 2025, but has largely focused on the country's rich culture and history as well as its natural wonders.
In developing its business model, the app is zeroing in on areas that will set them apart from their domestic and regional competitors. First and foremost, says Nasri, is the "transparency" with which the firm is conducting itself.
"From booking a place up to the moment of departure" is what Nasri calls the "airport-to-airport" experience, which he says involves "no hidden costs".
"Everything is delineated in detail on our website," he said.
According to the startup's CEO, what makes Iran health tourism all the more competitive is the "low price" for world-class treatment.
"Iranian medical industry offers topnotch services at very competitive prices that can be found nowhere else," he said.
He cites the dexterity of Iranian doctors and health practitioners as another boon to the fast-growing business.
Most popular services with visitors so far have been infertility treatments, cosmetics surgeries–including rhinoplasty—and hair transplantation.
Iran has been named the nose job capital of the world, as operations carried out here are seven times more than those in the US.
Add to it the eye-catching surroundings that give the visitors a mystical experience—a quality not without its healing effects.
"Visiting Iran per se is relishing for western tourists, as it's a land with 5,300 years of recorded history," Nasri said.
The startup has received many applications from European and American countries as well as neighbors such as Iraq, Pakistan and Persian Gulf Arab states.
This has materialized despite obstacles such as banking hurdles with some countries and difficulties in obtaining visa, which Nasri hopes will soon be eased.
The startup is also hoping to capitalize on the global reputation of Iranians as a "highly hospitable" nation– a feature also inherent in its physicians' attitude toward foreign patients.
Visitors' experience includes a "nice traditional Persian meal" on the first night of arrival, which also gives a pleasant surprise to many.
"I see the glow of satisfaction in the eyes of our clients from the very first day," he says.
"On the last day, we take a survey from our clients about their experience and this interaction endures between the doctor and the patient for a lifetime," he said.
Nasri recalls a recent encounter when an Australasian client described his experience as "beyond extraordinary" while giving his feedback on the social media platform WhatsApp.