Turkey could see the size of its medical tourism market double if an effective promotion campaign is put in place, says Levent Baş of Turkish medical tourism agency Gusib,“We are expecting to see an approximate 10 percent growth this year over 2009, but with effective promotion, the year-on-year growth in the sector could even exceed 30 percent. There is a huge potential as regards the future development of medical tourism in Turkey, a country that has the world’s second highest number of hospitals with Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation. This is a clear indicator that Turkey is home to a well-developed medical treatment infrastructure and the country offers the most affordable prices possible in comparison to rivals such as India or Thailand.”
Bas continues, “There will be a remarkable boost in the number of medical tourists to Turkey if we can manage to promote ourselves as an attractive medical treatment location. The biggest drawback is the lack of effective promotion abroad. The Ministry of Tourism could take care of this; we are not asking them for incentives or financial support. The only thing we expect from the government is that they undertake the promotional aspect. Turkey deserves to become one of only a few countries in people’s minds when it comes to medical treatment abroad. It has a well-organized medical infrastructure and the advantage of geographical proximity to the large and promising markets of the EU and the Middle East. Baş says there are four medical tourism businesses in Turkey, and while this is not enough, those who enter this business must be professionals; otherwise, the market could be adversely affected.
Gusib began in 2002 in Vienna to help people from Austria, but of Turkish origin, to benefit from lower priced high quality services in Turkey. The firm then offered the services to Austrians. Gusib now works with some of Turkey’s leading hospitals, particularly in Istanbul, bringing people over from Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia. The company is also interested in the US market, which could offer opportunities for Turkey. Gusib offers all-inclusive packages including return tickets, hotels and medical treatment.
Tourists from Europe prefer Turkey for their medical treatment because prices are low, while people from the Middle East and Central Asia primarily come for the high quality of service. Most patients come for a cosmetic, eye or dental services. There has been a particular increase in demand from Balkan countries over the past few years. The promotions offered by Turkish Airlines (THY) play an important role in attracting medical tourists to Turkey as THY offers a 25 percent discount to every patient and one person accompanying them on their visit to Turkey for medical treatment.”
Baş is working on a new project that envisages attracting for long-stay winter care, particularly from Scandinavian countries, where the governments are looking for ways to minimize expenditure on retirees,” Norway is keen to send pensioners to Turkey as the government wants to pay less for their treatment and insurance, and we have enough capacity to host these people. We anticipate building village resorts where older tourists can receive the necessary medical treatment. This is a promising new field of investment and is also critical in diversifying services.”