The report notes a trend in health tourism in emerging economies, commenting that there is serious potential there for the economy as Turkey is located at the crossroads of continents and is one of the most visited places in the world. “This will also enable Turkey to avoid being a touristic destination for only one type of traveler, those who visit Turkey for its natural and cultural attractions only at certain times of the year, preventing tourism activities centering on only known locations in the country,” it reads.
The report explains that one of the main reasons for the rise in the number of visitors visiting nations with emerging economies for health reasons is high costs of health care in developed countries, due to aging societies resulting in an increase in expenses. As resources needed to cover these expenses decline, individuals shift their focus to emerging countries to seek treatment.
With commercial and investment activities being lower in alternative tourism than in coastal tourism, the contribution of the health tourism sector remains limited in terms of the economy, decreasing Turkey’s competitiveness in the area. Resolving the difficulties faced by the health tourism sector would lead to year-round tourism, staving off the seasonal unemployment caused by changes during the off-season.
However, the research conducted regarding the health tourism sector among private hospitals by private hospitals active in the field suggests that at present it is not sufficiently systemized. The data reflects that either the statistics of private hospitals are missing or that it is not known how much the activity of a hospital impacts the sector as a whole, or even if these hospitals are willing to play an active role in the development of health tourism. The report claims that hospitals follow a pricing policy based on short-term profits and lack a general pricing structure. Advertising and commercial activities are also said to be sloppy.
According to the report, individuals who have difficulty accessing health services in Europe or those who are on waiting lists for treatment in their own countries comprise Turkey’s market for health tourism. General practice required to serve these patients should include pricing for health packages. However, the report criticizes such policies as limiting the contribution of the sector to the local economy, as well as providing low value added services attracting customers who prioritize prices. Nevertheless, if $700 average spending for each patient is taken into account, it is clear that health tourism still provides significant advantages. For example; if a patient undergoing cancer treatment stays in a Turkish hospital for an average of 30 nights, estimated earnings will be about 10,000 euros.
Other benefits of health tourism are listed in the report, including: providing a solution to low occupancy rates at hotels; diversifying the customer base; contributing to the formation of a positive image of the country worldwide; creation of job opportunities; and diffusing the regional concentration of touristic locations.
The report stresses that the health tourism market has reached a noteworthy size, and that Turkey has significant potential to take a certain share of the market. It also highlights that Turkey’s biggest advantage is in pricing. In addition, when taking the price, quality and timing of treatment, as well as geographical proximity, into consideration, Turkey represents a sufficient and effective market. The infrastructure of university and private hospitals, quality of doctors and personnel and language advantages are among other attractions Turkey possesses as a venue. Furthermore, private hospitals, which realized the importance of accreditation around 2005, have begun working towards that goal, with 43 hospitals currently accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) according to the report.
The report recommends Turkey’s tourism sector take measures to gain a higher share of the market. The sector, it says, needs to identify target markets and determine strategies for advertising in these markets and the services to be provided, as well as the right pricing policies and collaboration with other sectors and subsectors.