Very few industries have done well during the COVID pandemic. Among those most seriously damaged are sectors that require clients to travel.
While experiencing severe economic difficulties in recent years, Turkey has at least been able to get some respite from its woes by the influx of the Greenback, Euro, and Pound from medical tourism. That was until COVID hit.
In 2019, over 1 billion badly needed dollars equivalent to 7.5 Turkish liras was brought in by a total of 662,087 patients. And British nationals made over 2.5 million visits to Turkey in 2019, many of them medical tourists.
But with restrictions on flights in place throughout much of 2020, the tourism industry has ground to a halt. In terms of the pandemic, Turkey has been on middle ground. They haven’t been as severely hit as countries like the US, UK, Spain, and Italy. But since it’s these customers that Turkey needs, COVID has hit the industry hard.
In the first quarter of 2020, before travel restrictions came into place, 143,266 tourists provided $187.9 million in income. But from April through to June, flights from the UK were cancelled. They resumed again on June 11th, with passengers arriving in Turkey being subject to temperature checks inside the airport terminal. While that kept a check on the virus, it led to a whole heap of uncertainty. Without knowing for sure, on takeoff, if you had the virus, and restrictions that could come back into place at a moment’s notice, holidaymakers and medical tourists understandably didn’t want to take the risk of travelling.
The constant changing of quarantine measures has made medical tourism to Turkey highly undesirable. The UK government announced that If you are returning to the UK from Turkey on or after 4 am on October 3rd; you will need to self-isolate on your return.
The good news through all of this is that a vaccine is coming. While it won’t be available for Trump’s November reelection bid, sources worldwide expect a vaccine to be available around the first quarter of 2021.
And the need for surgeries or desire for cosmetic procedures has not gone away; it’s been building rapidly. The pandemic has had a significant effect on the UK NHS’s capabilities to function. With resources being taken up by treating COVID patients and extra efforts needed to keep other patients safe from the virus, waiting times have skyrocketed.
While 4 million patients were on a waiting list before the pandemic, by the end of 2020, the NHS Confederation data estimates that 10 million patients will now be waiting for operations.
All of this means that as soon as travel restrictions and quarantining are over, there will be a massive demand from UK patients wanting dental treatments and surgical procedures such as cataracts and hip and knee replacements. And with long wait times, many will look abroad for healthcare.
It’s not just NHS waiting lists that will fuel demand for medical tourism in Turkey in 2021. The NHS will not perform what it views as cosmetic procedures. But UK doctors completely accept that many of their patients suffer from depression and stress-related illnesses because they are deeply unhappy about an aspect of their looks. At the top of this list, which probably causes more misery than any other, is hair loss. UK doctors treat their patients for depression but can’t send them for a much-needed hair transplant procedure.
Many people who have mental health issues because of hair loss cannot afford the UK’s hair transplant prices. But Turkey has been able to capitalise on this need. Patients can now get excellent quality and safe hair transplants in Turkey from as little as £1250, including VIP transfers and 5-star accommodation.
Smart clinics will hope to learn from the recent pandemic. Virtual online consultations are now revolutionising healthcare as we know it—many consultations with a healthcare professional work perfectly fine with the aid of Zoom.
Pre-consultations online could seal the deal for many medical tourists. And with so many patients that couldn’t get procedures done in 2020, it looks like 2021 will be a record-breaking year in Turkey for medical tourism.