The question “Do clinics need the services of a tour operator or is it sufficient to be active in social media?” formed part of an interesting panel discussion in the Medical Tourism Pavilion at the recent global travel show, ITB Berlin.
Irena Rapoport from Israel expressed her preference to promote clinic services at business to business meetings, like those offered at ITB Berlin. “The internet and social media have produced an information tsunami” she said, “although their use is fully justified as advertising channels. Personal contacts, selectively deployed ambassadors who have seen the offers for themselves on organised familiarisation trips are also very important in marketing by travel companies, particularly those that are newcomers to the market. Tour operators and clinics should be selectively brought in contact with one another.”
Mert Demirsoz from Turkey argued; “Different cultures demand different advertising and marketing channels. In Africa, potential customers are less acquainted with the internet, so personal contacts have a much more important role to play. But without the use of electronic channels, business would be totally unable to function.”
Emre Ali Kodan of Turkish company Baki International Health & Travel Solutions, saw the pre-eminent role of social media in helping the widespread promotion of brands, but without the ability to distribute in-depth information. He raised the question of why many more potential patients do not seek direct contact with clinics abroad. “Here it is a matter of trust and security, which a travel agent or tour operator acting as a contact person in the customer’s own country can offer. For this profession one must be a citizen of the world”, he said.