We’ve been hearing about Medical Tourism for a few years now but what is it, how does it work? And how does it relate to Belize?
Medical Tourism is a combination of tourism along with medical treatments. People have been travelling to other parts of the world for medical treatments for quite some time now, hundreds and thousands of years in fact. The ancient Greeks travelled to the sanctuary of the healing god, Asklepios, for assistance in relieving ailments in their dreams. The Sumerian’s built health facilities around hot springs, which also included temples with flowing pools. And the ancient Romans, well, we know they had the healing baths and thermal spas. Moving forward in time Europeans developed the concept of vacation resorts, where the aristocrats travelled to seaside locales in the belief that the sea air had restorative and health properties. In other areas of Europe there are salt baths, mineral springs and it’s possible that the success of railways across Europe was at least, in part, contributed to by the travel of people looking for and travelling to places where they expected to heal and feel great. And more recently, we know that people who suffer from breathing issues will move to areas where there are fewer air pollutants. Arthritic sufferers often go to drier locales to relieve the pain associated with the disease. Other people are adversely affected by heat and sun so seek out cooler and less sunny climates. So travelling for health benefits is a long-time activity that people have engaged in for many, many years.
Now introduce the medical community, where organized teams of professionals join together to provide medical services at a much lower cost than can be obtained in the developed worlds. Canada, United States, Britain, France, all developed countries providing complete medical services to its citizens with one main element in common – the cost of the service. Some citizens pay for the medical service directly through user paid insurance or indirectly through government levied taxes but at the end of it all, these services are expensive. People also love to travel, so what’s better than to roll your medical treatment in with your travel plans? It may even be possible to obtain medical treatment for lower cost than you can obtain the same service at home and have the enjoyment of a vacation along with it.
So, now that we’ve had this short discussion on medical tourism, how does this relate to Belize? There are a couple of discussions in the wind about setting up medical tourism facilities here. A while back I visited San Pedro on Ambergris Caye on an investors tour. During that tour we learned that there is an area that has been purchased and is scheduled for a medical tourism facility. On the mainland, in the Stann Creek District, there is talk about a clinic as well. Yes, we know this is Belize and it may take a while for it to happen but it is on the radar of the government officials.
And here is how medical tourism is on the radar of government officials. An organization called Beltraide, Belize Trade and Investment Development Service is a national economic agency which operates within the portfolio of the Ministry of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade and Commerce. According to Beltraide (http://www.belizeinvest.org.bz/tourism–medical-tourism.html), a program called Horizon 2030, part of the Long Term National Development Framework for Belize where medical tourism is being developed. A world of opportunities exists should this program become fruitful.
Competitive Advantages Include:
- Geographically close to the United States and just a few more hours to Canada. Over 350 million strong
- Belize is English speaking
- Belize already has a well established natural tourism industry
- Many North Americans and Europeans already make Belize home for varying lengths of time
- More and more cruise ships are visiting Belize every year, with increasing numbers of passengers taking advantage of dental tourism opportunities
- Sustained political stability
Investment Opportunities Include:
- Academic schools – related to medical and tourism related training
- Healthcare facilities – hospitals and clinics that conform with international standards
- Investment projects – including infrastructure, intenstive care units, transportation, ambulance services, laboratories for testing
- Increased tourism – small boutique hotels, tour operators
- Wellness tourism – spas, (including facials, massages, beauty treatments, medical), physical fitness, healthy nutrition, relaxation, meditation, mental activity
- Supporting services – insurance, equipment maintenance, suppliers, bio-medical technicians
- And more…
Is Belize ready? Will Belize be ready? It’s happening elsewhere, why not here too?