Destination attractiveness for medical tourism is evolving in a manner something beyond the oft-heard ‘low-cost high quality’ factor. It is assuming a holistic pattern serving many other aspects of medical tourists. In other words, changing customer preferences have been important determiners of destination attractiveness. There is no fixed set of factors that destinations could easily add to their attractive propositions unless there are some well-planned action plans based on consumer behavior and attitude.
The reason is medical travelers are not from one specific region that one could make an easy guess about their choices and preferences. On the other hand, the growing trend shows region-specific preferences of medical travelers. Destinations need to rethink their attractiveness factors focusing on the following factors
What are the prime source destinations of your foreign patients? Are they from neighboring countries or from far-flung regions? The reason that geographical proximity matters is the convenience factor. How easily the patients can reach you? Can a few hours car drive help in reaching your destination? This accounts for the majority of medical tourists who prefer crossing one national border only. A short trip is mostly hassle-free.
Cultural affinity may not be always related to geographical proximity. A country sharing cultural traits with a distant country can be more attractive outweighing travelling concerns. Language, religion and traditional practices influence the patients’ decision-making in destination selection. It adds to their comfort value. The Latin American diaspora often fly back to their home countries for treatment. Patients from the GCC region prefer medical tourism within the related countries.
The destination image plays a great role in adding to its attractiveness in health tourism. A lot of factors go into creating an impressive image. It depends on how medical travelers perceive the destination. Is it safe? What is the quality of the treatment? How is the infrastructure? Are the physicians/facilities well-equipped? Will I get personal attention? Is the country tourist-friendly? A destination must focus on its strengths and weaknesses and work on both areas to grow its attractive propositions.
Travel is not solely dependent on geographical proximity. Smooth cross-border travel calls for easing of visa restriction and robust air connections. Patients should be able to get visas (if at all required) quickly and the required shortest-duration flights. Destinations offering visa-free travels or quick visa processing are winning.
Medical tourism is not without potential risks and therefore assured outcome is what the patients always look for. How a patient can be ensured of a satisfactory outcome? What if things go wrong? Is there any avenue for compensation in such cases? What is covered in post-treatment follow-ups? It is the patient’s health and money at stake. Destinations (the country or the facility) need to provide clinical outcome data based on different patients. Some facilities are known for their expertise in cardiology, orthopedics or oncology. Even some countries have earned the reputation of being top destinations of cosmetic surgery, dental treatments, fertility treatments, etc.
Climatic factors conducive to healing have a role to play. Patients from cold countries normally favor bright and sunny climate. Residents from North America and Canada flock to Latin American destinations for treatment with the hope to recover faster in a pleasant and sunny environment. It is not always the tourism to be the main focus but also to avoid the gloomy winters in the home country. Sea beaches in these destinations simply add to their pleasure.
Alternative treatments and wellness
Holistic treatments are emerging in medical tourism. Patients look for integrated conventional medicine and alternative treatments for complete medical wellness. Many hospitals in popular medical tourism destinations have been offering traditional therapies of Ayurveda, TCM, naturopathy, spa therapies, etc. either in post treatment recovery or in combination with conventional treatments. In a growing trend, patients are seeking various wellness treatments and activities to rejuvenate their mind and body after the treatment.
Destinations with more tourism opportunities are attracting medical travelers in volumes. It may be for leisure, recreation or wellness. Medical travelers seeking simple and less complicated treatments go for various tourism activities where the chances of health-related travel restrictions are less. Visiting world-famous sites or experiencing cultures are added benefits in medical tourism.
Low treatment costs continue to attract medical travelers but it is not only the attractive factor of destinations. Health tourism is not only about cost. The cost factor swings based on several factors like travel, food, and accommodation cost. The decision-making process of medical travelers is a lot more complex. Sustaining destination attractiveness is a continuous process, the more you work on it better is your position.