ISTANBUL // Tourists take a glance at package tour promotions hanging on the door of a travel agency on Istanbul’s Taksim Square as a young man enters the small office with a folder in his hand.
Ismail is in a hurry and takes a document out of his folder with a list of potential customers and hands it to the owner of the travel agency, sitting in her chair.
“I think we can transfer some five or six people this week,” he nods with a smile.
This everyday ritual reveals how the local black market manages its network of hair-transplant businesses spread across Istanbul and in other major Turkish cities.
This expanding network of clinics profits from an ever-growing number of visitors from abroad, mainly from Arab countries.
According to data from the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council (THTC), 746,000 foreign visitors landed in Turkey for medical treatment in 2015. As many as 100,000 arrived for hair implant surgeries and nearly two-thirds of them were from the UAE. Turkey earned US$5.8 billion from legal medical tourism in 2015, or nearly $10,000 per visitor. Medical treatment in Turkey costs as little as half the price in countries such as Germany and the United States, the THTC says.