Every economy in the world is feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it’s a long road to recovery. Outside of hospitality, there is no market feeling the slump more than travel and tourism. Under the umbrella of tourism falls the medical tourism market, worth over $44 billion as of 2019.
Coronavirus has put a temporary hold on what has been a booming industry in recent years. This isn’t detrimental to big players like the USA and the UK, which have many other markets to fall back on.
The devastation will have the biggest impact on Turkey, which relies on medical tourism for survival. The industry is worth $7.2 billion to the Turkish economy. It isn’t only the hospitals generating this revenue, but also the wider supply chain. With hundreds of thousands of procedures comes hotel reservations, transportation, restaurants, and more.
The Hair Transplant Market in Turkey
Hair restoration procedures account for $1bn of the revenue generated by medical tourism in Turkey. The country has become the go-to destination for new hair, with 1,600 hair transplants performed daily in Turkey.
The main reason for the rising popularity in Turkey for such surgeries is the low costs involved. Patients travel from across the world for a hair transplant at the fraction of the price. Turkey has built its entire medical tourism market on this, appealing to the masses with cheap corrective surgeries.
The cheap price of transplants in Turkey is a matter of perspective. The typical cost of $2,500 doesn’t sound a lot to the average earner in the UK, for example. However, the average salary in Turkey is the equivalent of a mere 950 dollars per month. This means that the $2,500 price tag is far from cheap to the Turkish population.
Turkey is also able to keep the cost down for western patients with their locally-produced medical equipment. Low-cost manufacturing means cheaper technology and thus, cheaper medical procedures. These factors have helped to make medical tourism a goldmine for the economy, but Coronavirus now put this in jeopardy.
The Effect of Coronavirus on Medical Tourism in Turkey
The worldwide travel and tourism industry is facing a 42% drop in revenue in 2020 compared to last year. This amounts to a staggering $289 billion loss. Airport closures, flight cancellations and ever-changing travel corridors are to blame.
Medical tourism in Turkey is mostly made up of hair transplants, breast augmentations and tummy tucks. That said, one can have practically any cosmetic surgery or dentistry done, all at competitive prices.
Unfortunately, without travel, there is no medical tourism. That’s the situation that Turkey finds itself in right now. The country had only 4.5 million foreign visitors in the first 6 months of 2020, a 75% decrease from 2019. The longer it goes on, the worse it is going to get, and with reports of second-waves all over the world, the pandemic isn’t going away any time soon.
What the Future Looks Like
Forecasting can be difficult at the best of times, but Covid-19 has made the task near impossible. Nobody can know for sure what’s going to happen in the next 12 months, but it’s set to get worse before it gets better.
We’re all forced to find new ways of working, and these medical clinics in Turkey are no exception. In fact, it might be the very thing that ensures their survival through this economic downturn.
Virtual consultations and online appointments are becoming somewhat the norm. The difficulty is the inability to get the patients commitment in such uncertain times. The order book may be dwindling, but if clinics can continue to engage prospective patients this way, it’s likely they will return when it’s safe to do so.
As long as the cost of cosmetic procedures remains low in Turkey, the market should recover. There’s a chance of inflated prices to compensate, but this comes at the risk of lost business.