Over the last decade, we have witnessed the emergence of a new travel and tourism sector – medical tourism and its sub-niche cosmetic surgery tourism.
To meet this demand Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Spain have invested heavily into their healthcare systems to attract more medical tourist from around the world.
Similarly, in Asia countries such as Malaysia,. Indonesia, India and South Korea have actively chased the medical tourism dollar. Meanwhile, Central and South American countries like Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia have rapidly expanded their clinics and along with it, their North American client base.
However, the coronavirus pandemic might have brought the gains of the previous years to a screeching halt.
In this opinion piece, we look at how some of the main players have been affected by the pandemic and whether there is any light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel.
Turkey and the UK Market.
A quick glance at the price comparison chart on the Medical Departures website shows us why Turkey has been a destination of choice for English ‘influencers' and their wannabe followers.
Breast implants which might cost £9200 in London's Harley St can be your for as little as £3300 in Istanbul at a top clinic such as the Istanbul Aesthetic Centre which has a mass of great reviews from foreign patients.
Similarly, at Vita Estetic you can get a new head of hair for around £1500 which is peanuts compared to the £6000 you might find yourself paying at a fashionable hair transplant clinic in London or Manchester.
You would pay even less if you have a large social media following since Turkish clinics are well known to provide promotional surgeries for minor celebrities and TV reality stars.
When the UK introduced flight lockdowns and quarantines Turkey was very badly hit. As of April 2021, this continues to be the case.
The first test of a bounceback will be in mid-May when the UK govt announces the green countries that are removed from quarantine restrictions. I doubt very much that Turkey will be on that list so it will probably only spring back to life at the end of June.
But let us look for a moment at the infrastructureTurkey that made it such a success in the fist place.
Turkey’s private hospitals and medical clinics provide the perfect mix of modern, contemporary facilities, in relaxing, holiday-like locations. The majority of clinics are well-equipped and hygienic, meaning you can rely on the quality of treatment offered and the safety of your stay in most cases.
Turkey is world-renowned for medical excellence, and is home to the best facilities and doctors. Turkish doctors are highly trained and highly qualified across a wide range of healthcare specialities.
Turkey is a safe and highly developed destination for medical tourists. Turkish people are extraordinarily hospitable, and you won’t find better prices or care anywhere else in Europe.
with these thoughts in mind turkey is likely to bounce back from the Covid disruption quite quickly and when it does you can find all the best clinics listed on our site.
Asia a Majormedical Tourism Hub Disrupted by the Pandemic.
The Asia Pacific accounts for 31% of all wellness tourism trips and 21.4% of the global expenditure in 2017. The region is by far the biggest market for medical and wellness tourism. China, Japan, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are some of the major destinations for these trips.
Health and wellness tourism trips to Asia were forecast to reach 128.3 million by 2022, according to GlobalData, before the pandemic struck.
With travel into and out of most destinations difficult or impossible, consumers have stopped travelling for health, dental and medical services. Demand is frozen. Will it ever recover? Is there a ‘new normal' we can look at in the region?
Malaysia – How Covid Hit Cosmetic Surgery Tourism
The Malaysian government predicted that two million international visitors would arrive for medical treatment in 2020—only for the covid-19 pandemic to hit during the Year of Healthcare Travel.
But in March, all that came to a halt when the Malaysian government instigated a lockdown to curb the growing number of covid-19 infections… For Malaysia’s hospitals, this meant there was no possibility of offering non-essential healthcare. For its medical tourism industry, it was a hammer blow.
The relative success of Asian countries in containing the virus means that they will probably be able to recover faster than other regions.
“Success in suppressing the virus, and—very importantly—implementing and maintaining rigorous testing and tracing is already proving important in tourism promotion and decision making.” Says Gary Bowerman
However, there has been no official word regarding when travel to affected countries will resume. Many nations are continuing to impose border closures and 21-day quarantines on everyone coming into the country, even though they might be easing travel restrictions—an independent travel expert.
When Malaysia gets back to life, you might be tempted by the excellent, well-priced facilities at Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre – Johor Bahru
The Medical Director for the Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre – Johor Bahru is leading plastic surgeon, Dr Nasir. Originally a graduate of the University of Melbourne, Dr Nasir is a Bachelor of Medicine who has over 18 years of experience in aesthetic and cosmetic surgery. His international training and qualifications also include a Master of Surgery from the University Kebangsaan Malaysia and a post-graduate degree from The Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) in Edinburgh.
He provides expert treatments across various areas, including craniofacial surgery, burns care, tummy tucks, breast surgery, facelifts and liposuction. The centre also offers eyelid surgeries (blepharoplasty) and nose surgeries (rhinoplasty), as well as a range of non-invasive treatments designed to improve the appearance and quality of the skin, including chemical treatments, botox injections and laser therapies.
You might also shortlist the specialist Georgetown Specialist Hospital, close to Penang airport.
Cosmetic Surgery options including tummy tucks, body contouring, liposuction, breast augmentation, facelifts, eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) and nose surgery (rhinoplasty). They also have a wide range of less invasive aesthetic treatments.
Pricewise they are very competitive with Breast Implants and Breast reductions similarly priced at around $4500.
Malaysia has a wonderful range of tourist activities that will add value to your trip when things get back to normal.
Back in the USA..
North America has always had a very vibrant domestic medical tourism market as well as being an enthusiastic consumer of out of country treatments. They have also seen a sharp fall in clients from across state lines.
David Vequist, who heads the Center for Medical Tourism Research at the University of the Incarnate Word, the largest Catholic university in Texas,
says that Covid-19 has crippled many hospitals' finances by taking away domestic medical tourism, which is one of their largest sources of income. Talking to CNBC.com Vequist says
“America's flawed healthcare system has forced hospitals to provide lucrative elective services to the privately insured in order to generate revenue, “Hospitals need to provide these elective surgeries because that's the best way for them to turn a profit.”
The Mayo Clinic was a big loser when it stopped all its elective surgery to make way for incoming Covid patients and expects to lose $800 million this year alone.
Another big effect on the North American medical tourism sector has been the slowdown on hospital-owned/sponsored luxury hotels to cater to incoming medical tourists. The pandemic has made doctors focus on emergencies rather than profitable elective surgeries. Hospitals have canceled hip replacements and tummy tucks, while flight bans have grounded many foreign visitors.
The New York Times also points out that multiday protests in May and June against police brutality, set off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, have also given travelers pause, depriving hospitals of some of their best-paying customers, according to those who work in the industry.
Final thoughts on Medical Tourism and COVID-19
While technology has been changing the healthcare industry, communication technologies are the real key in transforming the industry. PlacidWay is a healthcare software company that uses various communications technologies to accommodate different kinds of users and environments and to provide more transparent ways for medical institutions to communicate with patients.
Hybrid Medicine Services is a cloud-based technology designed to expand healthcare services through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Hybrid Medicine’s AI, analytics, and databases enable providers to authentically connect with and engage their patients in new ways.
The same as Zoom has transformed the business world so too has medical tourism been responding to the pandemic.
But where does that all leave us with the future of the medical tourism industry? An in-depth study by Verdict sets it out quite clearly We are looking at a 1-3 year period for medical tourism and its cosmetic surgery niche to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels.