Why Aren’t Customers Buying Your Medical Tourism Services?

by Maria K Todd, MHA PhD

Executive Director
Center for Health Tourism Strategy

Are you scratching your head wondering why more people aren’t lining up to buy medical tourism services from you?

If what you are doing to connect with buyers isn’t working, it’s time to re-examine and change your approach.  If you can identify the problem, you can rectify it.

  1. 1

A confused mind says “no”.

Identify and rectify to increase your medical tourism sales

Are you making enough offers and asking for the sale?

So many medical tourism facilitators and suppliers tell about the features they have or describe the procedure to make a booking, but they overlook or avoid asking for the sale. They fear coming across as sales-oriented or pushy. You cannot be afraid to make the offer or ask for the sale. You are in a business and business means making sales. How you word the ask relates to your style and the culture of the target market who will read or hear your messages – but you must ask. You don’t ask; you’ won’t get.

Have you earned the buyer’s trust?

Without reviews, testimonials, or demonstrations, and without a track record or a before and after example, you can’t prove what you sell works. This is not impossible but it is difficult in healthcare because of privacy rules. Cosmetic surgeons have conquered this worldwide. Dentists too.  They frequently ask for written permission from the client to take photographs to be used for marketing. These can be de-identified or revealed.

Buyer’s want to hear happy customers’ experiences with your services. Use the same space you now use to explain all your expensive assets in medical technology and how you use it to instead post stories about the benefits derived by your happy and satisfied patients. Obtain permission and then share their story. You don’t have to promise any specific results. In fact, doing so may break many marketing and advertising regulations. Instead, show other peoples’ (” influencers’ “) results and let the buyer come to their own conclusions as to whether or not they will trust you and your offer.

Is your offer specific to the targeted buyer?

Choose a specific audience and then make specific offers that are culturally, linguistically and otherwise relevant to them. If you believe you are talking to the world of medical tourism buyers, you are talking to nobody.

Does the buyer understand what you are selling?

So many medical tourism websites use language that is unfamiliar to consumers. One hospital in Spain that we worked with used terms in its brochures and website like “cervicobrachialgia” instead of neck and arm pain. Who searches for “cervicobrachialgia” on Google? My husband was with me that day. He has an extensive vocabulary (he’s the guy who finishes difficult crossword puzzles in ink each evening) and a Master of Business Administration from a highly-regarded business school and 20 years in business with emphasis in marketing and strategy. He said “what’s that?”  When I answered, he laughed out loud and said, “No wonder they have no medical tourism business. No one knows what the hell they are talking about!”

If you are a medical tourism facilitator, don’t fill your website with explanations of procedures like “What is gastric bypass?”  That’s already been researched by the buyer. Are you selling “medical education”? Are you competent to sell medical education? Or are you selling your service to coordinate care and medical travel for a gastric bypass?  Fill your website with solutions for what they clicked to investigate — how to get to a provider of gastric bypass surgery. Medical education isn’t the solution they were looking for when they arrived.  It won’t be the solution they were looking for when they leave — and go to someone else’s



website that sells what they want to buy.

Is the price right?

You may be too expensive or too cheap for your ideal customers, or maybe you haven’t effectively communicated the value of your offer to make it a no-brainer to decide to buy – from you.   Medical tourism buyers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The media has reported more than once that medical tourism prices include a percentage embedded in the prices quoted to cover facilitator or agency commissions for referrals.  They have also been told that foreigner prices are set higher than prices for locals.  They are fatigued by charts published by medical tourism trade associations that lack anything more than Procedure name | country name | country price comparisons that are meaningless. They are already wise to the fact that they cannot travel to the named country and write a check for the listed amount on arrival and get the procedure. They regard these charts as “unreliable” information. If they determine that the trade association is unreliable what does it say for the seller that prominently displays the trade association’s logo on its website?   The media has also brutally exposed and painted whole countries where foreigner surcharges are applied with a single brush, including, but not limited to: Turkey, Israel, India, Korea, and Germany.  It doesn’t matter the consumers’ affluence. Consumers don’t want to be made to feel as if they were singled out for discriminatory price hikes simply because they carry a foreign passport. Once this happens at a destination, the damage is done and all stakeholders suffer the consequences of the destination brand shame — not only the provider who got caught.  In Korea, for example, the law provides for foreigner pricing to be 150% of nationally set fee schedules.  Consumers simply look elsewhere for fungible substitutions.   Have you given the buyer too many choices?   Rather than tell you what I think, Sheena Iyengar did a phenomenal job with a TED Talk in November 2011 on How to Make Choosing Easier that makes my point for me. When people decide they are “willing” to travel far from home to access healthcare or wellness services – whether to access a world renowned specialist, to maintain anonymity, to gain rapid access to care, to combine care with visits to family and friends, or to save money, they want to feel they’ve made a wise choice.  Improve the health and wellness tourism patient experience by improving the experience of choosing.

Do you need help to implement the tips in this article?  Let’s work together!

Drop us an email to get started!

Speaker, Author, Medical Tourism Marketing and Strategy Expert


Maria Todd is a trusted adviser and expert specialist to hospitals, clinics, governments, healthcare business owners, investors, and independent professionals. Clients call on her to help them do a better job of marketing, branding, or contracting with insurers and employers, and to grow their business.

Maria is the CEO of Mercury Healthcare International, in Denver, Colorado and the founder of Mercury Health Travel, the leader of the Health Tourism Practice Group of Mercury Advisory Group, the Executive Director of the Center for Health Tourism Strategy, its research and education resource center, and a Board Member and Advisor at Higowell, the world’s first health tourism operations platform. She has been recognized as an Academician with the Ukrainian Academy of Rehabilitation and Human Health and is a member of the Scientific Committee of Termatalia in Spain. She is also a Board Member at Global Health Connections, a nonprofit organization associated with the University of Colorado MBA-HA program. She is the author of 15 internationally-published business improvement books in healthcare administration and health tourism.

Invite Dr Todd to speak at your next event.  She presents a compelling workshop of interest to tourism and economic development officials, foreign investors, healthcare strategists, and suppliers on Opportunities for Economic Development through Inbound Medical Tourism Sector Development.


Skip to content