History fanatics, adrenaline junkies, sunbathers and foodies are all in for a treat when heading for a holiday in Turkey, but experts say the nation is also drawing tourists seeking to benefit from Turkey's competitive edge in medical tourism.
Out of the roughly 40 million tourists who visited Turkey last year, around half a million came for surgical procedures from hair transplants and liposuction to cancer and orthopedic treatment, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.
The number of medical tourists who visited Turkey totaled 414,658, including 86,011 Turkish citizens who live in foreign countries, with revenues reaching nearly $1 billion, an increase of 75 percent in foreign medical visitors to the country compared with 188,295 in 2013.
While the Turkish government spending has been focusing on developing public healthcare infrastructure and treatment, private healthcare spending has been driving much of the growth.
A total of 34 city hospitals are planned to be built for about 30 billion liras ($11.6 billion).
Private equity investors favor Turkey's fast-growing service industries, including healthcare, retail and education, because of a near tripling of the nominal per capita gross domestic product over the past decade and a young population of 77 million.
Turkey provides affordable, high quality healthcare thanks to its well-educated workforce and its location in the world.
The health ministry said that only about 30 percent of these patients received their treatment in public hospitals in the country, the remaining 70 percent were in private hospitals.
Feyman Duygu Oktar, the founder of the Ankara Hair Center, said: "Nowadays, hair transplants have become more popular than in previous years, thanks to higher quality which provides a natural appearance with transparent roots.
"Turkey has achieved a high level of technological advancement in the field."
Evolved holiday industry
And, compared with many other countries, the transplant cost of about 5,000 Turkish liras ($1,929) is a relatively low price. Oktar said most customers come from Europe and the Middle East.
She said: "Turkey’s location, only a 2-3 hour flight from major cities in Europe and the Middle East - and also its evolved holiday industry - are advantages that are bringing in more patients.
"Another advantage is that Turkey does not apply a visa to more than 70 countries, and people from more than 110 countries can reach the country on a non-stop ticket."
Korkmaz Kıvanc from the Medical Park Hospitals Group said that more than 50 countries in the world defined health tourism as a national industry.
“Turkey is a strong candidate to become the region's health center,” Kıvanc said.
Medical Park Hospitals receives customers from everywhere in the world for organ transplantation, bone marrow transplantation and neurosurgery.
"Medical tourism is not just an economic gain, it also helping improve health services in the country," Kıvanc added.
People from countries with heavily congested health systems welcome the opportunity to choose the time of their surgeries together with savings of between 60 and 70 percent, which makes treatment more affordable than in European countries.
Mohammed, who preferred not to give his surname and came from Kuwait, said that he preferred Turkey medical treatments due to the lower-cost.
"I saw high quality medical care here. After personal referrals from my friend who had kidney treatments in Turkey, I came to Turkey for a skin treatment," Mohammed said.
'Cheap air tickets'
Dilek Sag, a Turkish citizen living in the Netherlands who had dental treatment in Turkey, said health care has a high price abroad.
He said: “We pay €80 for a simple tooth extraction in the EU. It is easy to explain our health problems to doctors in Turkey because we speak the same language. Airline ticket prices are cheap and I trust more doctors in Turkey."
Sukru Mentes from Germany said: "Around 60 percent of private health spending is covered by health insurance in Germany.
"Patients need to pay only 40 percent but, compared with treatment in Turkey, the price in Germany is still too high."
"My wife had eye treatment and it was cheaper than our contribution to health care costs in Germany," Mentes added.