Health Tourism Frozen – Waiting for the Thaw
In this evolving, uneven global healthcare and economic crisis, health tourism remains frozen, leaving providers and destinations around the world waiting for the thaw. Questions continue to swirl about when things will return to “normal” or at least settle down so that we can all chatter on about the “new normal”. The current situation requires far more scientific and nuanced ways of thinking about, segmenting and marketing health tourism. The same general, opportunistic approaches that worked in the past will not be successful in the post-COVID-19 period.
As Laszlo Puczko and I outline in our book, The Marketing Handbook for Health Tourism, the markets for wellness, dental, cosmetic and medical procedures – altogether “health tourism” – was never one “industry” or “sector”. Rather, health tourism is a set of highly regional, vertical markets ranging from simple non-invasive wellness activities to complex surgeries. The person seeking a relaxing, de-stressing weekend away has profoundly different motivations and considerations from the parents of a young child needing restorative or life-saving surgery. Moreover, a significant operating assumption to most of the health tourism markets had been an accessible, affordable travel & tourism sector, enabling consumers to get from their home locations to the destinations, often by commercial airline. And once at the destination, consumers were easily able to secure affordable local transport, lodging, food, etc. The global pandemic has turned all of these assumptions upside down.
Travel & Health Tourism
Commercial airline traffic is recovering slowly, and according to FlightRadar 24, is at 50% of its levels from March 2020. Traffic is increasing slowly in certain “travel bubbles”, and there is an on-again, off-again feature among many of the larger commercial airline routes.
While this dramatic drop in commercial airline traffic represents a profound challenge for health tourism markets, consumers are, nevertheless, traveling. After months of isolation, consumers are moving about and going places (sometimes too enthusiastically). We are seeing early signs that consumers are seeking relaxation, wellness and what Laszlo refers to as “hedonistic” procedures and that they are making short trips to purchase these services. Can you adapt your offer to take advantage of this early market thaw?
Major Questions About Health Tourism
The critical, even existential questions for destinations and providers are 1. When will the health tourism markets recover; 2. How will the markets be different, and; 3. What can we do now?
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You can access prior webinars, including Health Tourism: The Road Ahead, here.