“Do clinics need the services of a tour operator or is it sufficient to be active in social media?” This question gave rise to an interesting panel discussion in the Medical Tourism Pavilion. Irena Rapoport, HTI Regional Manager CIS from Israel described herself as “old-fashioned”, and expressed her preference for B2B meetings like ITB Berlin, where personal contacts can lead to immediate and quantifiable success. The internet and social media have produced an “information tsunami”, although their use is fully justified as advertising channels. However, personal contacts, selectively deployed “ambassadors” who have actually seen the offers for themselves on organized “fam trips” and can therefore act as particularly authentic multiplicators, are a very important building block 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 and the relevant offers should be combined accordingly.
In principle Mert Demirsoz, an international business development manager from Turkey, agreed, but added that different cultures demand different advertising and marketing channels. One example that he gave was that of Africa, where potential customers really are less acquainted with the internet, and consequently personal contacts have a much more important role to play. However, without the use of electronic channels business today would be totally unable to function.
Emre Ali Kodan, founder of the Turkish company Baki International Health & Travel Solutions, saw the pre-eminent role of social media in facilitating the widespread promotion of brands, but without the ability to distribute in-depth information. At the same time he raised the important 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. Accordingly his own personal conclusion is: “For this profession one must be a citizen of the world.”