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The Nip and Tuck Tourist

Czech Business Weekly

Czech Business Weekly - 23 Jul 2007

In a culture that equates youth with beauty, more and more people are exploring techniques that may buy back a few years, and are traveling to have those procedures done cheaply.

Recognizing the market niche is also the reason other health travel planners have emerged in the past three to five years when the business started picking up. Tamara Zdinakova, who owns Prague-based Beauty in Prague, used to work in the marketing department of a private aesthetic surgery clinic. But in 2004 she realized the market potential for an agency that would assist in arranging cosmetic surgery here for foreign clients. Currently, Beauty in Prague serves around 15 clients per month and the number of patients increased in the first six months of 2007 by 48 percent compared to the same period last year, she said. With the growing number of clients Zdinakova is planning to expand her firm and open an office in London possibly this year, she said.

Beauty in Prague — among traditional cosmetic surgeries — has started offering cosmetic gynecology. More and more women request vaginal rejuvenation — labia reduction and vaginal tightening, Zdinakova said. There is also a growing demand for hymen repair, usually requested by young Islamic women who want to have a traditional wedding or are returning to live in an Islamic country, Zdinakova said.

Although Zdinakova said that the most important thing for health travel planners to garner more clients is a good reputation and positive word of mouth, she also advertises on specialized Web sites and in British magazines. She declined to reveal the marketing budget, but said it’s been increasing over the past two years “due to the company’s good financial results and a strategic plan to build up an even stronger position on the market.”

Zdinakova said her agency represents about 30 percent of the market with agencies focusing on English-speaking clients mainly from the U.K.

Over 50,000 people from the U.K. traveled abroad for treatment last year and spent £161 million (Kč 6.7 billion/EUR 283 million) on medical tourism. The number of medical tourists increased by 25 percent in 2006 year-on-year and will continue to grow over the next 12 months, according to the Medical Tourism Survey 2007 released in March and conducted by consultancy Treatment Abroad. The most popular destinations included India, Hungary and Turkey and the most popular service was for dental treatment. Over 20,000 Britons trav-eled abroad for dental work, spending around £2,500 each, for an estimate market value of £50 million per year.

Cosmetic surgery was the second most popular medical service with 14,500 patients traveling outside the U.K. mainly for breast augmentations, tummy tucks, liposuctions and facelifts. Clients spent around £3,500 each, creating an estimated market size of £50 million.

There are no exact statistics on how much Britons spend for medical tourism in the Czech Republic. But Beauty in Prague’s Zdinakova estimates that last year Britons spent at least £3 million per year here just for cosmetic surgeries.

With the growing aesthetic surgery sector here — there are an estimated 40 plastic surgeries clinics in the Czech Republics employing more than 170 registered plastic surgeons — and changing lifestyles in which cosmetic surgery is becoming more acceptable and affordable, the number of health travel planners will likely continue to increase. But some plastic surgeons say that due to tough competition and cosmetic surgery clinics’ demand for eligible clients, the sector will continue to professionalize and only those agencies meeting high standards will remain on the market.

Written by: Petra Breyerova

Cosmetic Surgery

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