The International Workshop on Health Tourism in Heraklion of Crete, organized by the Greek Health Tourism Council – ELITOUR in collaboration with the Global Doctors’ Hippocratic Institute – GDHI, the Medical Association of Heraklion, the Municipality of Heraklion and the Region of Crete, was a great success.
The focus of the scientific dialogue was on Fertility Tourism in Greece, to which ELITOUR has dedicated its activities through the year of 2023 in Greece and abroad.
“Medical tourism is now creating creates greater possibilities and opportunities, and as a result we see more participation in this venture. The basis is the very good medical potential and the structures that are constantly being improved,” stressed Dr. George Patoulis, Regional Governor of Attica, President of the Athens Medical Association and ELITOUR, who underlined the successes that Greece has achieved in Fertility Tourism, through distinguished Greek scientists, gaining the confidence of infertile couples around the world to have a child.
Mr Patoulis made special reference to Wellness Tourism and the rise of international tourism after the global pandemic ordeal: “Wellness Tourism is also addressed to the healthy citizens of the world who, after the pandemic, wish to shield and improve their health against old age through organized wellness centers, which, we are already planning in Attica”, said President of ELITOUR and Regional Governor of Attica. Specifically, for Wellness Tourism and Health Tourism in general, the Minister of Rural Development and Food, Lefteris Avgenakis, stressed the value of the country’s agricultural products that are suitable to accompany the diet and service packages offered by Health Tourism. “It goes without saying that we will have cooperation as the Ministry of Rural Development with all relevant bodies for medical and wellness tourism,” said Minister Avgenakis.
The Deputy Minister of Development, Marios Senetakis, pointed out that medical tourism has great investment interest, combined with the expansion of the tourist season. “We are interested in the Ministry of Development to assist either through research or through start-up entrepreneurship in the development of this new form of tourism.”
Deputy Minister of Health, Marios Themistocleous, stressed that Greece can be a pole of attraction for the provision of specialized health services to tourists who will choose Greece not only as a tourist destination, but as a country providing modern, sophisticated medical care, including in the field of rapidly evolving assisted reproduction.
Specifically regarding Fertility and Assisted Reproduction Tourism, the President of ELITOUR and the Athens Medical Association, Mr Patoulis, pointed out the growth of the sector internationally, due to the increasing prevalence of infertility, which is attributed to changing life patterns, to the increase in obesity, also directly linked to the needs of men and women for Assisted Reproduction, as well as to the desire of couples to choose the sex of the child, related to the legislative framework of countries developing in Fertility Tourism. At this point, the Attica Regional Governor welcomed the legislative progress of our country, which he said is an important comparative advantage for attracting prospective new parents.
“At least 5,000 people come to Greece every year for assisted reproduction, a number that may double or even triple in the next few years in the context of medical tourism,” estimated the president of the Greek National Authority of Assisted Reproduction, Nikos Vrachnis. “The Greek National Authority of Assisted Reproduction will continue to stand as an ally of Medically Assisted Reproduction Units in the field of medical tourism. The new Law 4958/2022 on “Reforms in medically assisted reproduction and other urgent regulations”, which was introduced by the National Authority, modernizes the framework of medically assisted reproduction, as it enables women from Greece or abroad to procreate up to the age of 54. The parents or the parent of the child can, if they wish, know the details of the donor of genetic material at the time of insemination, provided that the donor has given his or her consent. The donor may also be given the possibility to give his or her details to the child when the child reaches the age of 18. Also, the changes concerning egg cryopreservation help many women to cryopreserve their genetic material which we would advise to be done until the woman is 35 years old.”
The General Secretary of the Hellenic Society of Reproductive Medicine and Vice President of ELITOUR, Dr Konstantinos Pantos, spoke about the developments of Fertility Tourism in Greece at the conference, on the occasion of the inauguration of an assisted reproduction unit in Heraklion. “The aim is to attract couples who are facing reproductive problems in their country, which are related to egg donation, surrogacy, the age of the woman and to offer them high quality services. The state should take measures and give incentives to those who travel to our country for medical tourism e.g. by reducing VAT on their airline tickets and giving them other facilities, thus earning the state from all their other activities, accommodation, catering and medical services offered to them.”
The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Ms Elena Rapti, who has been the Rapporteur of the Assisted Reproduction Legislation, stressed the scientific excellence of Greece in this field, from which the development of Health Tourism as a whole expects a lot. “The Greek State and the Ministry of Health, with our legislative intervention (2022), we have created the most competitive framework, which currently exists at the European level, if not worldwide. With an increase in the age limit to 54 years, the possibility of cryopreservation for medical and social reasons, the possibility of IVF services also for people with HIV (a significant gap is identified globally) and a series of acts concerning the expansion of surrogacy. In the last decades, modern, certified medical units have been developed, staffed by highly qualified scientists, whose success rates make travel to Greece a targeted movement for receiving IVF services, which allows us to talk about health tourism, with organized flows and not about the random treatment of medical emergencies”
The President of the Medical Association of Heraklion, Alexandros Patrianakos, spoke about the utilization of Medical Resources in Health Tourism and referred to the excellent training and the high level of service provision in the field of Assisted Reproduction. He stressed the importance of cooperation with the Greek Health Tourism Council, chaired by the President of the Athens Medical Association Dr. George Patoulis, with the Medical Associations of the whole country, the Regions and the Municipalities of each region.
The expert in data processing technologies, machine learning and artificial intelligence, Agis Georgiou, in collaboration with the President of the Organizing Committee of the Workshop, GDHI Secretary General and Ambassador of Greek Tourism Dr. Antonios Polydorou, presented the pillars of planning and Digital Transformation of Health Tourism with emphasis on Medical Assisted Reproduction Tourism. The chairman of the organizing committee of the conference, added that on the initiative of the President of the Athens Medical Association, Regional Governor Dr. Giorgos Patoulis, the first group has already been created with all the doctors of our country who deal with assisted reproduction, with the aim of having their services certified abroad, so that their presence is officially recognized internationally to serve as a pole of attraction for tourists who will come to Greece with the desire to proceed with assisted reproduction.
The conference was attended by representatives of the Hellenic Communities and Greek medical associations from the expatriate communities abroad, the president of the Greek Community in Melbourne, Vassilis Papastergiadis, through the contribution of the Global Doctors’ Hippocratic Institute – GDHI, Professor George Papadantonakis, Vice President of Ilinois University in Chicago and Secretary of the Federation of Cretans in Chicago, the President of the Greek Medical Association of New York, Professor of Vascular Surgery Mr. Antonis Gasparis, The President of the Greek Medical Association of Great Britain, Dr. Kyriaki Sonidou, the President of the Greek Medical Association of Great Britain (He.Di.D.A) Dr. Athena Angelopoulou and the President of the Pancyprian Medical Association Dr. Petros Agathangelou. On the side of Elitour, the General Secretary, Petros Mamalakis, the Head of the extroversion sector of Elitour, Mrs. Vaki Paka, and Professor Konstantinos Kouskoukis participated. The distinguished Greeks of the Diaspora referred to the assistance provided by Hellenism in the development of health tourism in cooperation with the Regional Governor of Attica, President of the Athens Medical Association and President of the Global Doctors’ Hippocratic Institute Dr. George Patoulis.