Author: Medical Tourism Magazine
Since the 1980s, different industries have committed to mitigate or potentiate negative and positive impacts under the concept of sustainable development. Today, medical tourism is a growing industry and, like any other activity, is generating both impacts. But, is medical tourism a tool for the sustainable development of a region?
The primary motivation of a medical tourism patient is to travel outside of the area of residence for reduced prices, higher quality and quick access to medical care.
As a result, medical travel has created a social, cultural and economic phenomenon that generates positive and negative impacts in built-up areas, in natural areas and in communities.
Some Impacts of Medical Tourism
Impacts Occur in Three Main Areas:
• Environmental impacts: Medical tourism makes use of natural resources. Their indiscriminate use without good practices will contribute to its depletion.
In some cases, the medical tourist performs leisure activities at a destination and establishes incentives for the protection and use of natural resources, especially in countries – like Costa Rica and Columbia — where nature and cultural tourism are important sectors in the economy.
• Social impacts: Medical tourism has a positive social impact by allowing millions access to enhanced health services at affordable prices, thus improving their quality of life, and creating jobs, cultural enrichment and technological advances within the community.
All medical tourism providers and doctors must take into account the principles of environmental, economic and social sustainability.
One of the most noticeable negative impacts is how the local community in some countries becomes antipathy to medical tourists who are perceived to have greater availability to services and are treated differently.
• Economic impacts: Economic impacts of health tourism are remarkable for its multiplier effect. For example, in Colombia the ratio is 1:5, meaning that for every dollar spent on healthcare, the medical traveler spends $5 within the tourism industry — at hotels, restaurants, transportation and travel agencies, and malls (MCIT, 2013).