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


Economic recession has led tourism destinations, groups and individuals to discover or “remember”  Medical Tourism (or Travel). This is associated with presumed opportunities, but, on the ground, and in practice, it can also be associated with tensions amongst “players”. But how can the adverse effects of professional rivalry and narrow vested interests be mitigated?

It is inevitable that aspirant new players will want to enter the industry; it is futile for incumbent players to try and keep them out.

Incumbents (with solid foundations and confidence in their worth and competence) should welcome new entrants, if these have something to contribute which adds value. New market entrants should take the trouble to find out what has already “gone on before”.

They must not ignore (or hide from those whom they address) what has already been done (or is being done) by others and already exists.

In times of recession

In times of economic recession or when the fortunes of tourism destinations start declining, many discover medical tourism (as the “savior” and “El Dorado” which will make the country, and the people who get involved in it, rich).

Since 2006, we have seen this phenomenon in a number of countries and regions.

Helped by journalists, bloggers and those whose interests it serves, the message “Medical Tourism is the next big thing” goes “viral”. Almost overnight, we see the emergence of a rat race with a diverse assortment of participants clamoring to jump onto the bandwagon.

This phenomenon tends to involve:

  • Politicians (touting medical tourism as the solution to the country’s economic woes – and claiming credit for its discovery).
  • Providers of health-related services (who believe they have discovered a new lucrative source of revenue to replace the evaporating old sources).
  • Aspirant medical tourism intermediators (who see this as a new career opportunity – or an extension of an established business)
  • “Consultants” and generic consultancies (who quote anecdotal and unsubstantiated numbers - millions and billions – and the reports of other consultancies – to convince prospective clients to buy their story and services)

Learn from what has gone before

For the most part, those who suddenly and opportunistically appear on the scene, claiming “unique competence and expertise” have not taken the trouble to find out what has already “gone on before”. Or else, they ignore (or hide from those whom they address) what has already been done (or is being done) by others, and already exists.

And of course there are those, who express views and opinions, who “do not know what they do not know”.

When those who do not know what they do not know are in positions of power and influence, they become a “public menace”.

The “fast-growing market” story: false prophets dispensing irrational exuberance

Those who have newly set out to sell consulting services, urge prospective clients to join the medical tourism industry because it addresses a “fast growing market”. And of course, deciding to go into the medical tourism business is most often motivated and encouraged by anecdotal evidence that it addresses a fast-growing market.

But what these gurus fail to point out are the differences between:

  •     the potential market;
  •     the available market;
  •     the qualified available market;
  •     and the penetrated market.

The emergence of new constituencies and groups with narrow vested interests

With the “discovery” of the medical tourism El Dorado, we also see the emergence of several new groups with narrow vested interests.

These groups (or individuals) are often supported by politicians or political parties. Each of these groups view all other “groups” contributing to the “common effort and good” as competitors and “threats”. Consequently, part of their efforts are directed at undermining the “competition”.

As all can understand, this attitude is not conducive to smooth, uninterrupted and systematic industry shaping and development. On the contrary, it exacerbates any existing industry fragmentation and poses a counterproductive challenge to evolving concerted action initiatives aimed at integration.

For destinations, “integration” is a fundamental pre-requisite for efficiency and competitiveness.

What do the “Deep Insiders” do?

They ignore the noise and watch the dust settle!

What do established players and deep insiders (with established sector pedigree and credentials) do when this state of affairs comes about, especially when they were already in the midst of implementing such things as well thought-out and methodically designed comprehensive plans, addressing the development of a sector which others had just “discovered”?

My answer is that they get on with what they were doing (concentrating on the “signal”, and ignoring the “noise”) and patiently wait for the dust to settle and for the “shake out” to occur.

So, what is the message?

With every evolving or newly discovered sector of the economy, intra-industry rivalry is to be expected. It goes with the territory.

Incumbents will, inevitably, be challenged by aspirant new entrants. But rather than assuming a defensive “to the barricades” attitude, incumbents (with sound foundations and confidence in their worth and competence) should welcome new entrants, if these have something to contribute which adds value.

So what should the broadcast message be?

There is work to be done. Join in, if you have something to contribute which is additive rather than duplicative, something which supports rather than undermines.

Besides, those who will survive and prosper are those who add value.


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The raison d'être of Health Tourism Industry Representative Bodies

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Saying NO

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Who leads "Health Tourism Destinations"?

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The Russian Patient

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Russia is the new focus for medical tourist companies.

Why "Google Health" failed

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Greece as a destination

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Luxury and Medicine

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Conventional bankruptcy

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State and Government

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The role of governments in developing health tourism

Haves and wants

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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'

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


Articles, 26 August, 2010

Constantine Constantinides talks on why medical tourism businesses fail

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



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