Localization (sometimes shortened to “l10n”) is the process of adapting a health and wellness tourism product or service to a particular language, idiom, culture, and desired local “look-and-feel.”  When marketing these health and wellness services, the messages to the target audience must be localized to achieve the best resonance with the message recipient.  The language is a system of verbal, non-verbal (sometimes body language or facial expressions) and written communications. Idioms, alter the use of language with concepts and sentence structure specific to a culture and sometimes a region.

Language localization differs from translation activity because it involves a comprehensive study of the target culture in order to correctly adapt the product to local needs. It is absolutely fine to have one message for a medical tourism product or service that is offered to only one locality and one target demographic. But if you are seeking a connection and resonance with an international health and wellness tourism buyer, you’ll need to understand localization and international marketing, laws, regulations, and idiom, as well as detailed facts about the prospective consumers to whom you wish to advertise and make aware of your brand.  Most medical tourism seller websites, whether hosted by a medical tourism facilitator or the actual provider of the hospitality, diagnostic or clinical services, fail miserably in addressing localization of their content and offers. They also fail to make the effort to send out email marketing messages with properly localized messages, resulting in a less than professional impression about their attention to detail, quality, and inferred safety. Then they wonder why they don’t succeed in gaining traction as a “trustable” brand in the market.

Let’s face some realities of human nature: Why would someone place their trust in a healthcare or health tourism seller that doesn’t take their business serious enough to warrant the effort to localize messages and check spelling and idiom before attempting to raise brand awareness? Why would an affluent buyer who can afford to seek health and wellness tourism services and an exciting and memorable destination experience choose to buy from a seller who knows nothing about them as a consumer and who proves this repeatedly in its marketing communications (“marcom”) messages. What interest would an affluent buyer have in a seller that advertises medical or dental tourism as a way to access “cheap care at a foreign destination”? What could be less appealing to someone carrying an authentic Hermes purse and authentic Prada sunglasses?  It is human nature to search for the best healthcare one can afford. No one likes to feel that their only option is cheap medical or dental care.

Your website and marketing materials must be both translated and localized

Though it is sometimes difficult to draw the limits between translation and localization, in general localization addresses significant, non-textual components of products or services. In addition to translation (and, therefore, grammar and spelling issues that vary from place to place where the same language is spoken), the localization process might include adapting graphics and images to avoid expressions that are impolite in one place while perfectly acceptable in another; adopting local currencies; using proper formatting for date and time indications, address conventions, and international dialing codes for telephone numbers applicable to the location; the choices of colors and color combinations; and many other details, including rethinking the cultural adaptations of a product such as health or wellness tourism services. All these changes aim to recognize local sensitivities, avoid conflict with local culture, customs, common habits, and enter the local market by merging into its needs and desires. For example, localization aims to offer country-specific websites of the same company or different editions of a brochure depending on where it is published and its intended target market.

As an experienced and award-winning international speaker, I’ve also seen fellow speakers on the dais make terrible mistakes by reusing the same slide deck from one event to present at another event without giving thought to these same localization issues. As a result, they confuse (or even offend) their audiences and cause the audience to dislike or distrust their message. They also wonder why speaker invitations don’t continue to fill their inboxes. It isn’t difficult, but it does take time, a little investment into ones’ brand and professional image, an adaptation of graphics, color, and images. Without this investment, one could argue that there professionalism or competency as a professional international speaker is at issue.

Globalization and localization strategic planning for health and wellness tourism services

If you are targeting health and wellness consumers in many different countries and but don’t have the means to afford or manage a specifically designed website in each of these countries, you must take time to develop a strategy. Before deciding how to localize the website and the products offered in any given country, we often advise the client about how to globalize the way their organization does business. Our clients often request our help to design a framework to mind map and support this global strategy. The globalization strategy and the globalization framework we design provides uniform guidance for their localization efforts.  This is especially important for hospitals, clinics, balneology and thalassotherapy resorts and spas who seek our advice.

Globalization is especially important in mitigating extra work involved in the long-term cycle of localization. think of localization as a cycle and not a one-time project. This is true because there will always be new texts, updates, and messages about new products and services to localize. As the original website or even a single medical tourism web page is updated over time, each of the localized websites already translated will also need to be updated. This cycle of work (and the budget required to maintain it) is continuous as long as the original project continues to evolve. It is therefore important for globalization processes to be created and streamlined in order to implement ongoing changes. For an organization that has already been certified in accordance with ISO standards, this globalization and localization process must be developed to the same level of documentation and practice.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards for business, government and society. ISO is comprised of more than 15,900 standards that provide practical solutions and achieve benefits for almost every sector of economic activity and technology including hospitals, clinics, surgeries, hotels, spas, and other health and wellness tourism suppliers, up to and including medical tourism facilitator businesses, tour operators and travel agencies.  Of these, ISO 9001:2015 (the latest version) and ISO 14001:2004, which give the requirements for, respectively, quality management and environmental management systems, are among ISO’s most well known and widely implemented. They are used worldwide by businesses and organizations large and small, in public and private sectors, by manufacturers and service providers, in all sectors of activity. Certification is not a requirement of the standards themselves, which can be implemented without certification for the benefits that they help user organizations to achieve for themselves and for their customers. Nevertheless, many thousands of organizations have chosen certification because of the perception that an independent confirmation of conformity adds value. Just so you know, ISO itself does not perform certification to its standards, does not issue certificates and does not control certification performed independently of ISO by other organizations.

Mercury Advisory Group, one of the leading health and wellness tourism consultancies in the world, includes team members who are experts at quality management, marketing and advertising gap assessments. Our international team of experts includes consultants who can perform native localization assessments about your marketing communications messages, product descriptions, and cultural and language sensitivities. Our globalization and localization overview consultations are performed onsite or via web conference, to eliminate travel costs and provide value for money. Here’s what is usually provided, to give you an idea of what is involved in the management overview for globalization and localization projects:

  • A Thorough Review and Open-ended, Detailed Discussion of the requirements of your globalization and localization strategy and how it aligns with quality standards associated with ISO or health quality and safety accreditation schemes such as JCI, DNV, COHSASA, ICONTEC, ESPA, AAAHC, AAAASF, and/or other ISQUA-accredited international accreditation schemes. We provide insight and correct any “misinformation” regarding this standard.
  • Alignment with Existing Quality Processes of Your Organization – What they are, and why they should be the foundation for a successful globalization and localization strategy. We review the difference between “procedures,” and “processes”
  • A Review of Your Quality Documents – These are frequently more confusing than they need be. Your management review and situation analysis includes a frank and honest discussion of what is the minimum necessary to thrive and operate and why a “big document bureaucracy” isn’t necessary for certification (or accreditation)
  • The Certification/Accreditation Process – Tips based on our experience regarding certification/accreditation bodies, the certification audit/accreditation assessment, and the certification/accreditation process in alignment practical application of globalization and localization techniques used in your marketing and advertising messages. This is where theory and quality infrastructure are tested fr practicability. No paper policy has ever superseded what happens in practice and day-to-day operations. We help clients to make sure both are addressed and reconciled.
  • Audit Questions – We ask targeted audit questions during the overview. These are centered around your current quality system, the services your business offers and to whom you are trying to sell them. We don’t always require or expect answers. Some questions are designed to stretch your thinking or rhetorically change your perspective and address the need for a solution that is unique to your business and operating model.
  • Our Recommendations  – The custom-tailored recommendations we make allow your organization to decide how you will resolve any findings we make and what to do to improve your unique situation.

As niche sector management consultants, our team members are in high demand with clients located all around the world. As such, we rarely have the time to “camp out” at your location. Instead, our proven, proprietary work processes do not require excessive time onsite. Much of our work related to these consultations are desk research that can be performed offsite. We use web-conferencing to reduce your costs, and to achieve your objectives in less time with a higher output than most firms.

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