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Copyright Medical Tourism Magazine
July/August 2009
convention &
Visitors Bureau role
in Medical Tourism
It would seem like the perfect wedding when two of the
world's largest industries find themselves joining together to
support the globalization of health care and the comfortable
provision of services to the medical tourist. But as the world
of medicine and insurance is introduced to the world of
tourism and hospitality, the first impression is more of an
arranged marriage between two strangers struggling to
become acquainted after the wedding has occurred.
Although each sector is rooted in being of service to its
guests or patients, the approaches to service and marketing
tactics that each have developed may seem strangely alien to the
other. How familiar each becomes with the manner in which
the other operates may well be a determining factor on whether
medical tourism in a particular city or region succeeds or fails.
While this is a need for all medical tourism destinations,
it is perhaps nowhere as true as in the United States. Several
international destinations such as Korea, certain locations
in South Africa, México and Greece seem further along in
integrating the two industries, while in the U.S. the effort
appears isolated and rare. There are several world-class
medical facilities in the U.S., and for years many of these have
served international guests. Their reputations for quality care
remain stellar, but the number of additional destinations able
to provide that level of care is multiplying internationally.
Selecting a Destination
In such a competitive market, the determination of a surgical
destination may be influenced by non-medical factors, such as
ease of transportation, services and support available outside
of the hospital, appeal of hotel or other aftercare facilities,
etc. In short, if medical care in rival destinations is considered
equivalent, the final decision may rest either on cost or the non-
medical aspects of potential destinations.
If the potential medical traveler is making a decision solely
on cost, this means a race starts between destinations to have
the least expensive offerings ­ a race that will result in everyone
in medical tourism, including the patient, losing. Eventually the
low-cost leader will need to reduce service quality to maintain
that position, and those unable to join the stampede in price
reduction may not be competitive.
If, however, the potential medical tourist's decision is made
on perceived value of a destination, then the goal becomes
understanding what non-medical aspects of the travel are valued
by medical tourists. Once they are identified, a location enhances