It is important to differentiate medical tourism from health tourism. According to the OECD we can define "medical tourism as when consumers elect to travel across international borders with the intention of receiving some form of medical treatment".
This treatment may span the full range of medical services, but most commonly includes dental care, cosmetic surgery, elective surgery, and fertility treatment.
Medical tourism is then related to the broader notion of health tourism which, in some countries, has longstanding historical antecedents of spa towns and coastal localities, and other therapeutic landscapes.
Some commentators have considered health and medical tourism as a combined phenomenon but with different emphases. Carrera and Bridges, for example, define health tourism as ―the organised travel outside one‘s local environment for the maintenance, enhancement or restoration of an individual‘s well-being in mind and body‖. This definition encompasses medical tourism which is delimited to ―organised travel outside one‘s natural health care jurisdiction for the enhancement or restoration of the individual‘s health through medical intervention.‖
Health tourism is an important part of social tourism as it focuses on cares that enhance the well-being of a person but cannot be considered as necessary per se. Indeed in Romania health tourism cannot be dissociated from social tourism since it concerns free spa treatment for retired persons or disabled adults.
These two examples show us that health tourism has two goals, preventive and curative.
Preventive health tourism is therefore often linked to active tourism, where sport activities as biking or hiking are prevalent.
In Romania, health tourism is traditionally curative since it is often assimilated with "balnear tourism" or "spa tourism" which has a long-consistent tradition since the Roman Empire (e.g. Baile Herculane - Hercules Baths, Geoagiu Bai – Germisara).
In the country, over 160 localities benefit from therapeutic mineral resources, of which more than 27% were declared national or local tourist resorts according to the Romanian legislation, also being acknowledged on the European tourism market. Around a third of the natural mineral springs in Europe are located in Romania.
Well-established spa tourist resorts are scattered across the country, the most important being Băile Felix, Băile Herculane, Sovata, Tuşnad, Vatra Dornei, Techirghiol and Mangalia, Călimăneşti - Căciulata, Olăneşti, Govora etc.