Decisive factors in medical tourism destination choice: a case study of isfahan, iran and fertility treatments

Decisive factors in medical tourism destination choice: A case studyof Isfahan, Iran and fertility treatments Farhad Moghimehfar ,, Mohammad Hossein Nasr-Esfahani a Department of Tourism Management, Allameh Tabataba’i University, Nezami Ganjavi St., Tavanir St. Tehran, Iran b Isfahan Fertility and Infertility Center, Isfahan, Iranc Royan Institute of Animal Biotechnology, ACECR, Isfahan, Iran The birth of the first in vitro fertilized baby, followed by further advances in the field of assisted reproductive technology (ART) has made this technology one of the most attractive tourism innovations among the different categories of medical tourism. In addition, factors such as legal, moral, religious andethical issues play important roles in choosing reproductive tourism destinations. The aim of this study was to examine the factors influencing destination choice in infertile couples who referred to the Isfahan Fertility and Infertility Center in Isfahan, Iran. Field evaluation was carried out based on a documentary survey and questionnaire completed by interviewers. Among a target group of 80 infertile couples, 67 were interviewed. The majority of participants in this study were Muslim couples who traveled for reproductive tourism to Iran. It can be concluded that religious affinity may have paramount importancein reproductive medical tourism for Muslim infertile couples.
Ó 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
The growth of medical tourism, and the role of fertility treat- Many hospitals and fertility clinics in the Middle East provide ments within this form of tourism have attracted academic studies infertility treatment through ART ). More than 70 to explore its effects and improve future planning. According to clinics and specialized medical centers in Iran offer infertility treatment to both Iranian and non-Iranian couples.
5e30% of the world’s population have been affected by primary and Iran, located in the Middle East, is surrounded by Muslim coun- secondary infertility. As a result of recent advances in the field of tries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, and Azerbaijan, to assisted reproductive technology (ART), followed by a rise in the name a few. The majority of Iran’s population is Muslim of the Shi’a population of medical tourists, the number of infertile couples who sect. Many natural tourist attractions, historical and archeological seek international fertility facilities has increased as well. Nowa- sites with more than 7000 years of urban settlements, in addition to days, many countries worldwide offer a vast range of medical famous cities that have rich Islamic and pre-Islamic cultural back- services which differ in quality and cost ). Thus grounds such as Isfahan, Shiraz and Yazd are located in Iran infertile couples have choices of medical tourism destinations from ). Moreover, many sacred places for Shi’a Muslims termed among these countries. Many factors may influence the destination “Imam Zadeh” are located throughout Iran choice among this category of tourists. The main objectives of this study are to identify the demographic profiles of non-Iranian Isfahan, one of the largest cities in Iran, is located in a central infertile couples who have referred to the Isfahan Fertility and part of the country with numerous historical sites and heritages Infertility Center in Iran and investigate factors which affect that are mostly from the Islamic period (). A vast destination choices among this group of tourists.
range of tourism facilities and hospitable nature encourages manydomestic and international tourists to visit Isfahan. Isfahan alsoprovides medical facilities such as general hospitals and specialty * Corresponding author. Tel.: þ98 9139064462; fax: þ98 3112600446.
medical centers. Isfahan Fertility and Infertility Center is a non- governmental fertility clinic which provides reproductive services 1 Tel.: þ98 9131199888; fax: þ98 3112600446.
to both Iranian and non-Iranian couples.
0261-5177/$ e see front matter Ó 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi: F. Moghimehfar, M.H. Nasr-Esfahani / Tourism Management 32 (2011) 1431e1434 interpreters). Seventy infertile couples (among 80 infertile touristswho referred to the center during the study period) were inter- Numerous studies in the field of decisive factors on the choice of viewed and 67 usable questionnaires were analyzed. Both the destination for medical tourism have been carried out recently documentary survey and interviews were carried out anonymously and an informed consent form was obtained from all volunteer research pertains to numerous types of illnesses while others are participants. The study was carried out during a six month period more focused and study particular illnesses and conditions.
from September 2009 to March 2010. Collected data were analyzed Many studies in the field of medical tourism show cost benefit to using descriptive statistics and the chi-square test, with SPSS 16.0 be one of the initial factors which encourages medical tourists to The distance betweenthe patients’ country of origin and their medical destination affects both their transportation cost and convenience ().
While visiting the destination country, many medical tourists try to The first section of the questionnaire was designed to obtain find a popular tourism country in which they could enjoy their trip demographic information about the respondents. As shown in according to religion, it was noted that all respondents were All the above-mentioned factors were pull factors which create Muslim couples, of which 64.2% were Iraqi, 17.9% Afghan, 7.5% demand, while certain push factors in the traveler generating Pakistani and 10.4% were infertile couples from other countries. The region seem to be important as an origin of tourism demand majority were Shi’a (94%) and the remainder (6%) Sunni Muslims ). The lack of advanced medical technology or (three Pakistani and one Iraqi couple). A total of 82.1% of these expertise, and quality of services are some of the push factors couples entered Iran by land while the remaining 17.9% traveled by air. Only 6% of these couples encountered problems during their ). In many countries worldwide ART, mainly applications for a visa. Of couples, 71.6% rented houses during their those related to donation or surrogate motherhood are illegal treatment period, 16.4% of them stayed at hotels and the remaining 11.9% stayed with their Iranian resident friends or relatives. In addition, most Afghan couples mentioned that they were previ- ously in Iran as social workers (11 out of 12). Finally, 32.8% of males moral (or religious ethical issues ).
and 49.2% of females had a high school diploma or below, whereas Some studies have found the term “reproductive exile” more 67.2% of males and 50.8% of females were university graduates.
accurate than “reproductive tourism” In addition to these legal restrictions, in some cases, barriers are due to the infertile couple’s religious beliefs.
Sunni and Shi’a are two branches in Islam. The majority of shows the frequency of answers to each question and Muslims (80e90%) are Sunni. Shi’a, another branch of Islam, is mostly located in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Syria, Saudi Arabia, An open ended question was added to statement number five Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (The Shi’a and Sunni “Which kind of attractions in Iran do you like the most?” Of branches have different rules (orders) concerning ART. In Shi’a, respondents, 68.6% asserted that they were highly interested in surrogate motherhood is allowed as well as egg donation under pilgrimage; the majority mentioned Mashhad (the most religiously certain circumstances (In the Sunni branch however, important city in Iran, particularly for Shi’a Muslims). The other all forms of third party donor, including surrogacy are forbidden 8.9% were interested in visiting historical sites in Isfahan and Shiraz, (). Fertility through ART in a religiously correct and the remainder (22.5%) did not answer this question.
fashion seems to be very important to many Muslim infertile Based on the results gained from chi-square analysis (all couples ). It is proposed that a study of this minority significant at the level of 0.01) and frequency of responses, it was group of reproductive tourists helps to plan for future medical determined that the infertile couples who participated in this study agreed about that all the above factors had an influence on theirdecision making.
A documentary survey and questionnaire were the major research techniques used in this study. At first, a documentarysurvey was carried out on the medical records of non-Iranian infertile couples who referred to the Isfahan Fertility and Infertility Center during the last five years. Then, a questionnaire that con- sisted of eight simple questions was designed to find reproductive tourists’ attitudes toward factors that affected their destination choice of infertility treatment services. The questionnaire was measured by the five point Likert Scale which ranged from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. Its validity was confirmed by university faculty professors and a literature review, and the reliability coefficient was confirmed by Cronbach alpha (0.725) after a pilot test. The Persian questionnaire was then translated into English and Arabic, as all respondents could speak and understand either of these three languages. The main data was gathered by F. Moghimehfar, M.H. Nasr-Esfahani / Tourism Management 32 (2011) 1431e1434 Table 2Level of respondents’ agreement with each statement and chi-square analysis results.
1. My destination choice was affected by the distance between my 2. My destination choice was affected by the low price of infertility 3. My destination choice was affected by lack of expertise or ART 4. My destination choice was affected by legal or moral restrictions 5. My destination choice was affected by tourist attractions of Iran.
6. Receiving reproductive medical services in the religiously correct 7. Implementation of ART in the religiously correct fashion in Iran is 8. Level of agreement with traveling to a non-Muslim country to receive a Question: Please specify your level of agreement with each statement by checking the appropriate response.
b SD ¼ Strongly disagree, MD ¼ Moderately disagree, N ¼ Not agree nor disagree, MA ¼ Moderately agree, SA ¼ Strongly agree.
The results in show that some factors seem to be more important for Muslim infertile couples participating in this study inthe choice of their medical treatment destination. It can be inferred The authors wish to thank Ekhlas Ghotbi (Arabic interpreter), from the frequencies of the responses that religious ethical issues Mehrnoush Motiee, Zohre Shamandi MD., and Mehran Rajaian, for statement nos. 6, 7 and 8) and legal or moral restrictions in their kind helps. We also thank Professor Dr. Marcia C. Inhorn, for their home country statement no. 4) rank among the most important factors in their choice of a destination country to receiveinfertility treatment services.
Lack of expertise or ART is another factor which influenced their choice. Demographic statistics in indicate that the majorityof these infertile couples are Iraqi and Afghan (82.1%) of which most Supplementary material related to this article can be found at do not have access to high quality medical facilities or expertise in their own countries. In addition, Afghan people preferred to travelto Iran for their treatment because most have been working in this country as social immigrant workers for a period of time.
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