Issue 2/2015 – Special Issue

Trips that Heal: Exploring Recent Trends in Wellness, Health and Medical Tourism

The notion that travel has restorative properties lies at the historical roots of tourism. Tourists’ pursuits have long been guided by an underlining belief that by ‘getting away’ from time to time they can improve their physical and mental health (Urry 2001). Over the past century, specific styles of tourism have emerged to provide more focused responses to a wide range of curative needs. Today people travel to spas and balneary destinations for non-invasive practices and preventive treatments (Reisman 2010) but also, and increasingly, to state-of-the art hospitals, for more targeted intrusive procedures (Lunt et al. 2011).

This special issue of IJRT is concerned more broadly with Wellness and Health Tourism, but has a particular focus on Medical Tourism. Some of the questions and topics with which we seek to engage include, but are not limited to, the following:

– The conceptualisation and terminology used in understanding these different types of tourism, as well as their methodological underpinning (Connell 2013). How can we quantify and assess the impacts of these phenomena? How do they differ and overlap and what is their relation with more standard forms of tourism?

– The demographic, social and economic background of people who travel for health reasons. How do travellers’ profiles link with the severity of the procedures they pursue?

– Markets and marketing of medical tourism. How and why do markets for medical tourism develop (Lunt and Carrera 2010)? Who are the key stakeholders in this process? What are the marketing strategies of the industry? Papers that bring evidence from emerging markets are particularly welcome.

– Barriers vs. assistance encountered by tourists/patients in their travel. What kind of legal, bureaucratic, cultural, material and emotional issues they face and what are the actual or possible responses in terms of infrastructure and regulations offered by the industry’s stakeholders and by policy makers (Garcıa-Altes 2005)?

– Trips that do not heal. What can go wrong in Wellness, Health, or Medical tourism? How can legislation, international partnerships or accreditation schemes be developed in order to protect tourists/patients (Reisman 2010; Lund et al. 2011)? How do people access information about service providers and how reliable is this knowledge?

– Country-level risks and benefits of outsourcing medical services (Bies and Zacharia 2007). What is the impact of medical tourism on the national healthcare systems of both sending and receiving countries?


Bies, W. and Zacharia, L. (2007). Medical tourism: Outsourcing surgery. Mathematical and Computer Modelling, 46, 1144-1159.

Connell, G. (2013). Contemporary medical tourism: Conceptualisation, culture and commodification. Tourism Management, 34, 1-13.

Garcıa-Altes, A. (2005). The Development of Health Tourism Services.  Annals of Tourism Research, 32(1), pp. 262–266

Lunt, N., Smith, R., Exworthy M., Green, S. T., Horsfall, D. and Mannion, R. (2011) Medical Tourism: Treatments, Markets and Health System Implications: A scoping review [Online]. Available from:

Lunt, N. and Carrera, P. (2010). Medical tourism: Assessing the evidence on treatment abroad. Maturitas, 66, 27-32.

Reisman, D. (2010). Health Tourism: Social Welfare Through International Trade. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.

Urry, J. (2001). The tourist gaze. Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies. London: Sage.