Thursday, 14 November

Getting Armenia on the Dental Tourism Map? Three Young Visionaries Argue It’s Possible

Dental tourism in Armenia?

The idea doesn’t sound too far-fetched in the minds of three young men from Armenia. In fact, they argue that Armenia can make its mark in this field if the venture is approached with some proper planning and financing.

Two of the budding entrepreneurs, 22 year-old Gor Hovakimyan and Artur Gasparyan, got the chance to study overseas with a Luys Foundation scholarship.

Gor studied at the London University College, receiving a Masters in Economics and Business. He’s since returned to Armenia.

It was Artur who came up with the idea while studying at Zurich University. He’s now in Canada.

The third member of the team is Ashot Khourdgaryan, now in Russia trying to drum up financial backing for the initiative.

Dental tourism, as the three men point out, has become a worldwide phenomenon. Hungary is considered the epicenter of the industry. Every year, more than 100,000 people flock to Hungary for low cost quality dental work. The country has captured 42% of the European dental tourism market.

Gor says that while Armenia offers quality dental services and is competitive by international standards, it still hasn’t garnered a foothold in the market.

“During our research we came across one or two organizations in Armenia whose websites advertise that they provide such dental tourism services. But they are clinics with daily walk-in clients. There provided no information as to whether they had succeeded in attracting clients from overseas. This, we believe, presents a problem and a challenge. Thus, we decided to promote the sector in Armenia,” says Gor.

The three visionaries have named their initiative Dental Travel Armenia. Arguing that while the idea of dental tourism exists in Armenia, they note that the sector’s full potential is being utilized.

Thus, they have entered into a collaborative relationship with dental tourism agencies in Europe to direct some of their business to Armenia.

Dental Travel Armenia already has a website in English where potential customers can interface with dentists in Armenia, receive information regarding the types of dental treatments available, and see what various procedures will cost.

The website even lets customers rate their dentists in terms of quality of service, thus allowing new clients to choose a dentist according to their rating.

“We don’t have a dental clinic to promote. We collaborate with everyone. Quality is our standard. Today, we collaborate with ten clinics in Armenia that we researched in detail, interviewing the dentists as well,” Gor says.

After studying the international market, the three young men realized that tourists could receive the same services at less cost in Armenia. Gor notes that a single implant in Hungary or the Czech Republic, each considered the center of dental tourism, costs US$150 more than in Armenia. That’s a sizeable savings for someone who needs more than one implant.

Gor also notes that overseas clients coming to Armenia would get the secondary benefit of visiting the country’s scenic wonders. He says that such arrangements could be worked out with specialized agencies here in Armenia.

Their initial target audience won’t be diaspora Armenians, but non-Armenians. They argue that Armenians from overseas can be directed to quality dentists through friends and family while non-Armenians can’t rely on such resources.

And they want to start by attracting customers from countries where dental services are costly – Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, the US and Canada. To sweeten the pot, overseas customers will be picked up and returned to the airport for free and receive a dental cleaning for free.

Gor didn’t want to say how much money would be invested in the venture, arguing that it’s a business secret. He did confess that neither he nor his two partners have deep pockets.

The money sent by Ashot barely pays for the basics. They’ve applied for some grant seed financing and are awaiting a reply.

They’re also waiting for their first customer.

“If you have an idea that you believe has legs for the long-term you have to struggle on all fronts to achieve it, Gor says confidently.

Photo – Gor Hovakimyan (Facebook page)

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Comments (7)
1. Hagop12:56 - 31 October, 2014
A noble idea but highly impractical. When you include all the costs of flying to Yerevan plus lodging, etc, any dental savings will be cancelled out. Other than saving on implants, what other dental procedures might Armenian specialists provide overseas tourists? And what happens if the client returns to their country and then experiences problems.? Will they be forced to once again return to Armenia and get the problem remedied? Does one really believe that someone sitting in the US or Canada will hop on a plane to come to Yerevan merely for some implants?
2. zohrab13:17 - 31 October, 2014
Good idea when I comei am going to fix my teeth
3. Hripsime18:49 - 31 October, 2014
Very nice idea, guys! It's so good that students from Armenia can go to study abroad and after come back with such big projects. Congrats, and let it happen!)
4. Alec19:08 - 31 October, 2014
It's a great idea that should be further researched, but its important to note that for people living in France/Germany, Hungary would be considerably closer--and thus cheaper to get to. A lot of feasibility studies need to be done to see whether this would be able to work. I have heard that Armenia has recently been attracting thousands patients seeking plastic surgery. Maybe a quality international surgery center should be built and marketed to tourists. These procedures are probably more expensive on average. As for the dental tourism, I would actually focus on extending dental services to those who are already planning on coming to Armenia. Typically diasporian Armenians don't go to the dentist when they visit Armenia, even though it is much cheaper in Armenia. This would be a good base and would eventually lead to non-Armenians using the same services.
5. fansisian 13:36 - 1 November, 2014
Hagop, one can save a lot. In many European countries, big operations cost thousands of USD.
6. rita givargiz14:43 - 1 November, 2014
Very well done. Promising project! I wish you all good luck guys! Hope to see this all expanded and diversified. And of course thumbs up for Luys foundation guys! Another thumb for the sponsoring guy who invests and had a belief in realizing when founding it! Good Luck again! Waiting to hear from u soon!
7. minas20:07 - 1 November, 2014
I kind of agree with Hagop, not sure if this will work for dental care. There are no direct flights between Yerevan and most European cities, this will increase the cost as well. And lodging in Armenia is quite expensive since tourism is not that developed. However, cosmetic surgeries have more potential, it will be easier to convince a German or Swedish woman to do her nose or breast job in Armenia since this sort of surgeries are usually more expensive and not covered by any kind of insurance, but this again needs planning and close cooperation between government and private sector. They will need to identify a few target cities like Dilijan or Jermuk and pour millions of dollars in upgrading both the overall infrastructure and building modern medical hotel-spas. Unfortunately, our oligarchs are busy importing sugar and building gaudy mansions for their kids, or feeding their exotic animals imported from Africa while kids in Armenian villages suffer from malnutrition.
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