Constantine Constantinides talks on why medical tourism businesses fail


When it comes to medical tourism, the internet and the media in general report stories of (purported) business success, but remain silent when it comes to the reporting of failures. Of course, when one only measures the number of business successes, whilst ignoring the corresponding number of “trials and failures” (or “mere survivors”), it is not surprising to conclude that successfully exploiting the market is simply a matter of hanging up your “Open for Business” sign.

I receive the occasional email from people who have developed a medical tourism business; for the most part, this means that they became “medical tourism facilitators”. I also get to hear stories of people and businesses who decided to enter the “billion dollar medical tourism market” by either:

  • Additionally, addressing and targeting the patient from abroad (not such a big risk). These are typically medical services providers who have an existing and well established domestic healthcare business.
  • Or, exclusively, addressing and targeting the patient from abroad (a big risk). These are typically medical tourism facilitators who may be new to the healthcare sector.

Both types of market entrant were inspired to enter the medical tourism and medical travel sector by what they read on the internet, what they heard at conferences or based on the advice of various industry experts and consultants.

The messages I receive from many about their experience of entry into the market range from disappointment to stories of sorrow and woe. When I ask myself, “Why should this be?.....Where have they gone wrong?”, the answers are clear and simple:

  • These failed market entrants to medical travel tended to be ill equipped aspirants who knew about but did not fully understand the market sector. And to their detriment, placed too much faith and trust in the knowledge and understanding of others.
  • In determining the opportunity, these failed market entrants may have overestimated the size of the market (both current and potential). Some may have got this badly wrong.
  • Some failed market entrants got their assessment of current and potential market size right, but they failed to consider (or want to consider) the number of pre-existing, well qualified and established industry players (the competition!).
  • And of course, some perhaps did not factor in the risks of entering international markets and the effect that national and international events can have on a business which is dependent on international travel.  Recent examples include drug related violence in Mexico, civil unrest in Thailand, and the NDM- 1 “superbug” story emanating from India. 

Making the bottom line the top line

The decision to enter the international medical travel either as a facilitator or a medical services provider should take into consideration not only the size of the market, but also the number of industry players, especially those who are well equipped, in terms of capital, financing and knowledge and understanding.

When a few players in a market become many players, a good idea may become a bad idea.

I have for some time been pointing out that the competition is becoming more aggressive and sophisticated, and often has deep pockets. And which is also a reason I emphasize the need for formal “sector-specific” executive education for those contemplating going into the health tourism business (from empiricism to professionalism).

So, “caveat vendor”.

Since 2008, I have been arguing that contrary to simplistic thinking, the growth of medical tourism, in isolation, (as opposed to health tourism, which includes medical tourism) will not experience the “explosive growth” predicted by some consultants and experts who fail to appreciate how healthcare delivery and consumption actually works.

Those who follow what I write (and say) are probably familiar with my “West’s Revenge” caveat (the “backlash” response to an imbalance of trade). The West’s Revenge is now playing out through the development of internal medical tourism and increasing price competition for treatment in domestic markets.  Medical travel destinations which set out to become the “leading destination for medical tourism” on the basis that they were cheaper and better than domestic facilities and providers are now experiencing the effect of the “West’s Revenge”. This has been compounded by the effects of the worldwide recession.  Again, contrary to the simplistic thinking of some commentators who argued that recession would drive more and more patients abroad for cheaper treatment, this has clearly not been the case; medical tourism and healthcare businesses in general are being hit by recessionary factors the same as other international markets and businesses.   


Amateur to professional

Articles, 01 August, 2018

Medical tourism clusters are not in the right league

“Fragmentistan Syndrome”

Articles, 01 March, 2017

The “Fragmentistan Syndrome” in medical tourism

Industry Representative Bodies

Articles, 31 January, 2017

The raison d'être of Health Tourism Industry Representative Bodies

Health tourism improvements

Articles, 21 September, 2016

Making health tourism “truly” sustainable and resilient – for all

The rise of domestic medical tourism

Articles, 10 December, 2015

Why more and more medical tourism business is becoming “domestic”

Insurance funded treatment abroad

Articles, 15 October, 2015

The future of “Health-Plan-Funded” treatment abroad

A fortune in pyramids

Articles, 12 June, 2015

Is there a fortune at the bottom of the medical tourism pyramid?

Saying NO

Articles, 24 November, 2014

Why some countries are turning their back on medical tourism.

"Buyers" at events

Articles, 07 August, 2014

Hosted "Buyers" fail to live up to expectations

Who leads "Health Tourism Destinations"?

Articles, 22 May, 2014

Are there leaders, or does he who pays, speaks?

The Russian Patient

Articles, 22 April, 2014

Russia is the new focus for medical tourist companies.

Why "Google Health" failed

Articles, 09 January, 2014

Examining the electronic health record "Death Trap"

Greece as a destination

Articles, 29 November, 2013

Times are changing as Greece tries to become a major destination.

Luxury and Medicine

Articles, 07 October, 2013

If medical tourism is all about cost, why so many luxury destinations?

Conventional bankruptcy

Articles, 27 August, 2013

The old models have failed, but what replaces them?

State and Government

Articles, 17 June, 2013

The role of governments in developing health tourism

Haves and wants

Articles, 12 April, 2013

How have to travel is being replaced by wanting to travel

Changing motivations

Articles, 01 February, 2013

Is medical tourism experiencing a shift from 'have to' to 'want to'

Discovering medical tourism

Articles, 22 October, 2012

Despite the recession, there's still growth in medical tourism

Tourism "free zones"

Articles, 01 June, 2012

What are the goals and benefits?

International medical children

Articles, 18 May, 2012

How the EU directive may stimulate an increase in child care

On ice?

Articles, 23 April, 2012

Dr Constantine Constantinides talks on the EU directive on Cross Border Healthcare

Short/long term

Articles, 06 March, 2012

Which should we focus on in medical tourism

Survivor bias

Articles, 23 January, 2012

Past success is no predictor of future eminence

Healthcare standards

Articles, 21 October, 2011

Do standards need to have a regional flavour?

Is it enough?

Articles, 28 September, 2011

Can medical tourism on its own be sustainable?

Understanding the market

Articles, 03 June, 2011

Why would you want to get into the medical tourism market?

Exploring the health tourism market

Articles, 28 January, 2011

Constantine Constantinides provides advice as to understanding the health tourism market

Government incentives for health tourism

Articles, 29 November, 2010

Constantine Constantinides speaks on the role of government in medical travel

Should accreditation be sold

Articles, 29 July, 2010

Constantine Constantinides talks on how should handle Destination Marketing

Blowing their own trumpet

Articles, 26 February, 2010

Is there any noise from the market, or is it all in the industry?

Brightest Africa

Articles, 20 January, 2010

Is Africa always a exporter, or can it be a healthcare destination?

Cross-border opposition

Articles, 10 December, 2009

Spain and other nations blocked the draft proposal, we ask the experts why

The resentment factor

Articles, 15 October, 2009

Health tourism is often resented by countries, but can it have positive effects?

Free and open debate

Articles, 22 September, 2009

Constantine Constantinides voices concern over the expression of opinions in the industry

Medical tourism in denial

Articles, 30 July, 2009

Supply is exceeding demand in medical tourism, but the industry is in denial



Do you have an article that you’d like to share with the medical travel industry?

Publish for FREE on IMTJ.


Related Articles

Reproductive care in the Middle East

22 January, 2020

What is driving demand for IVF in the Middle East?

Medical travel: Bold predictions for the future

19 December, 2019

Perspectives from the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit 2019

Dental tourism to Costa Rica

20 November, 2019

Cost and quality drive medical travel to Costa Rica

Setting up a medical travel business

23 October, 2019

Lessons from the front line

Iran Tourism Vision Plan

11 September, 2019

USA sanctions drive Iran’s plan for health tourists