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Home > Blog > 2009 > Marketing in the medical tourism downturn

Marketing in the medical tourism downturn

Markets in turmoil

There are conflicting views on how the global financial crisis is affecting medical tourism. The view expressed by organisations such as the Medical Tourism Association is that the "...with the economy and the credit crisis, more people are waking up and paying attention (to medical tourism)."

The harsh reality may be somewhat different. BusinessWeek reports that "...in some medical tourism hotspots, formerly booming hospitals are seeing empty beds." The MD of Parkway Hospitals in Singapore, "expects the foreign patient numbers to stabilise after dropping 10 per cent".

Whether the credit crunch encourages more people to consider travelling abroad for treatment remains to be seen. People are short of cash, unable to borrow and are delaying expenditure on house purchases, cars and other major expenditures. Healthcare is not immune to this. Although in the last global recession, healthcare was less affected, the likelihood is that people who might have considered medical tourism may decide to postpone their expenditure.

Areas likely to be affected most are those “non-urgent”, discretionary treatments such as cosmetic surgery. In countries where medical tourism is influenced by waiting lists, patients may decide to hold out for free treatment in their own country rather than go for the paid for, immediate treatment available elsewhere. In the USA, the story may be different, as the financial crisis puts pressure on health insurers and employers to find ways to cut rising healthcare costs.

The simple answer is that no one knows yet how the financial crisis will affect medical tourism. But it’s best to be prepared.

So, here are our recommendations for marketing in a medical tourism downturn (....follow these and they will also pay off, if there’s an upturn).

And no apologies for giving the services of Treatment Abroad a plug!

1. Target your activities
There are many hospitals, clinics and medical tourism operators out there who don’t have a clearly defined service strategy. What service am I selling, into what markets and to what demographics? Now is the time to think this through, and identify very clearly your market niche.

2. Maximise your return on marketing investment
Measure your return on investment on all marketing activities. And invest in those that deliver results:

  • Invest in the web, because it’s the one area of marketing expenditure where you can measure your return and control your budget easily.
  • Use PR. It’s a low cost and effective way of promoting your services to patients in other countries. (Become a Treatment Abroad client and we’ll give you our free guide to generating PR coverage!)
  • Take advantage of free web promotion. Send your news articles to Treatment Abroad (it’s a Google approved news feed for medical tourism – your news story will get indexed by Google within the hour, if published).

3. Improve your conversion rate
Turn more web enquiries and leads into paying patients and customers. If someone has bothered to complete an enquiry form for your service, then they have probably done the same for some of your competitors. Respond faster, and respond better with an informative, personalised and high quality response. (Become a Treatment Abroad client and we’ll give you our free guide to enquiry management!)

4. Generate referral business
Past patients are the one of the best sources of future patients. 20% of medical tourists who travel for treatment have been recommended by a friend or relative.

  • Give a “Recommend a friend” discount voucher that your past patients can give to a friend or relative.
  • Generate word of mouth recommendations by encouraging patients to contribute to reviews sites such as Medical Tourism Ratings and Reviews.

5. Be brave!
Don’t cut back your marketing budget. In a recession, the strong survive. Use the opportunity to take market share from competitors who are less well equipped, and ill prepared to deal with a downturn.

Don’t cut your prices because you think it will bring you more business. Think about where you can add value to your service offering to give yourself a competitive edge and concentrate on customer service and service quality.

Put the above into practice. Then, whether we see an upturn or a downturn.... you'll be on the winning side!

Date published: 08 Jan 2009


Comments provided below do not represent the views of IMTJ. Comments will be published 'as is' and will not be edited by IMTJ staff. IMTJ is hosting these comments, and is not undertaking an editorial role. However, it is editorial policy to publish comments that have been submitted anonymously. 

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About me

Keith Pollard

Keith Pollard

I am CEO of Intuition Communication Ltd, a web publishing business in the healthcare sector. Our sites include International Medical Travel Journal, Treatment Abroad, the medical tourism portal, DoctorInternet, the Arabic medical tourism portal and Private Healthcare UK, the UK's leading site for private healthcare services. I am a regular speaker and commentator on medical tourism and the independent healthcare sector.

Use the comment submission form below
I would actually say that keyword research can be very important if you get creative and use the tools correctly. Yes there are many big companies out there but I have found incredible gaps in competition for this field. Building http://www.healthcheckcostarica.com was a pure endeavor in SEO and keyword research, and the site is incredibly well ranked and we have yet to open our doors for business nor promoted the site. There are specific procedures out there with millions of monthly searches and no advertising competition. One could create an entire niche business based on this information. Good luck but do not neglect key word research.

AgroCheck (28/10/2010 13:01:20)

The downturn in marketing in medical tourism can in paart be attributed to the change in exchange rates making it less financially advantageous to travel.

cosmetic dentistry glasgow (28/10/2010 13:00:42)

Prospects of Medical Tourism in today's world has to be explored considering the Prominent Participants in Hospital and Hospitality sector.

Anonymous (28/10/2010 13:00:10)

Health is quite important and so medical tourism is the way out for world's health care program.

glasgow cosmetic surgery (28/10/2010 12:59:34)

Marketing in medical tourism is gradually increased. Hope it helps growth in medical tourism.

glasgow cosmetic surgery (28/10/2010 12:58:49)

Marketing for medical tourism is worthy for its value. Its doing the business at the same time helpful to all.

glasgow dentist (28/10/2010 12:58:19)