Coronavirus Pandemic Effect on Health Tourism

Coronavirus Pandemic Effect on Health Tourism
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Health tourism has become very popular in the last decade. Hundreds of thousands of people from countries like the USA, UK, and western Europe traveled abroad to get more affordable medical treatments. Going to Mexico, Ukraine, the Balkan regions, Turkey, Vietnam, and other countries with high medical standards and very affordable services was a great option for all those who wanted to get dental, cosmetic, or another type of medical treatment without spending a fortune. Plus, they were using that trip as a short vacation.

However, things have changed since the Covid-19 outbreak in December. Spreading across Europe and the USA made things even worse. Governments took harsh measures to protect their citizens from the pandemic. Most countries were and still are in lockdown, travels were canceled and all travel traffic was forbidden.

How Covid-19 Has Affected Medical Tourism?

Having in mind that hundreds of thousands of people won’t be traveling abroad to get a cheaper medical treatment, there will be a great loss in the health tourism sector economy. Thousands of healthcare providers, especially smaller businesses, will be devastated by the current situation. Most of them (if not all) will remain closed until it’s safe to start working even with domestic patients. Not having international patients will result in very low profit and cutting costs. In other words, they will be forced to lay-off their employees, which will result in thousands of unemployed people.

The absence of health tourism this year will also affect the domestic economy. If we take into consideration that inbound medical tourism generates $3.5 billion of revenue for the USA, we can conclude that there will be billions of dollars of loss in profit for the countries that work with foreign patients.

If we take the USA as an example, tens of thousands of people who planned a medical trip abroad in March have canceled their trip. As Josef Woodman, the CEO of PBB told Newsweek, over 90% of the bookings from foreign patients in Mexico and worldwide have been canceled in March. Moreover, there will probably be 500.000 cancellations until the third quarter of 2020. And, even if some of them manage to travel abroad, most of them won’t be able to find care because private practices, clinics, and hospitals that don’t work in the primary healthcare industry (general medicine), are closed.

How to Deal With It?

Regardless if you are a small, medium, or big health tourism provider, there’s always a way to go through this crisis in a wise way. We know it’s very hard to sustain on the market in a situation like this, but you can use the lockdown to change the way your business operates. You can spend time educating yourself and your employees on the current trends in your industry, reorganize your business, apply healthcare protocols, and look for new markets and new potential foreign customers.

Here are some strategies you can employ during the crisis:

  • Communicate with your customers –Talk with your previous, current, and those who have canceled or postponed their procedure(s). Provide them with some important information about your business and any changes in it.
  • Revise and adapt medical travel policies and protocols if needed – Change the way you screen patients using telehealth, implement social distancing policies, and postponing/canceling policies.
  • Monitor the Covid-19 impact on medical tourism and the latest news.
  • Invest in SEO – SEO ensures your business gets noticed online in the long term. In other words, you will get a boost in demand when the pandemi will allow people to get treatment abroad again.

SEO as the Best Internet Marketing Strategy Now

With so many cost-cutting, a lot of medical travel providers and medical providers stopped marketing their businesses. That results in a lack of or no visibility of their business online. In the long run, that means a small number of customers/foreign patients after the pandemic is over.

Although the situation is bad, you can make it work in your favor by investing in SEO. SEO, especially global SEO, can boost your visibility internationally because it will help your website (thus, your business) get discovered by your target audience around the globe. Even if there are no medical travels right now, those interested in traveling abroad for medical purposes will be looking for medical travel providers that will help them plan their trip to a foreign country. They will also be looking for private practices, clinics, and hospitals that offer the treatments they are looking for.

What makes SEO so important right now is that it helps your business stay visible in this crisis without spending a lot of money on marketing. Having in mind that people now spend more time than they did before the pandemic, ranking high on the browser search results is of crucial importance. Although you may not have customers now, things will be better in several months and will eventually get back to normal. You have to be prepared for that by being exposed to international audiences.

How Can SEO Help You Stay Visible?

Having in mind that you target people from all over the world, using global (international) SEO is the best choice for you. This marketing strategy exposes your website to the target audience by using two methods:

  • International geotargeting – It creates multiple versions of your website, based on the location of the user. For instance, if you have a US English website, international geotargeting will make it available for users from Canada, UK, Spain, Mexico, and other countries of your interest by ensuring search engines show a suitable version to users according to their location.
  • Multilingual targeting – It creates multiple versions of your website by making your content available in various languages. In that way, search engines will show your website to the users when they look for a business like yours. Plus, the content will be in a language they speak or use.

Is SEO the Right Choice?

In these difficult times when every business cuts their costs, you are probably thinking if SEO is the right choice. Well, if you are looking for an affordable way to stay on the market and be exposed to your target audience, then YES. Global SEO can help your business stay visible and will help you reach out to your target audience without making a big investment.

Check out our case study for a dentist from Istanbul for dental health tourism project.