American medical tourists targeted by Nicaraguan hospitals

 

In Nicaragua, tourism is prospering. International arrivals passed the 1 million mark for the first time in 2011, according to the Nicaragua Tourism Board (INTUR). Some local hospitals now see medical tourism as the next opportunity

Nicaragua enjoys one of the highest rates of economic growth in Central America. Tourism is growing as the country shakes off the now way outdated image of a country riven by civil war, gangsters and drug lords.

A year ago Managua’s Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas began promoting simple surgery to Americans. It now gets 10 patients a month from the USA and Canada. Arlen Perez of Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas explains, “It is hard getting Americans to come here to Nicaragua’s capital, if they have no local family connections. Our target is 50 patients a month for the next 2 years two years at least.”

The hospital is targeting Latinos in the USA with adverts that suggest a hip or knee replacement, or gastric surgery, can be less than half the cost of in the USA.

While other Latin American countries Mexico and Costa Rica are popular medical tourism destinations, Nicaragua has been forgotten. But it is lucrative for the tourist trade as patients and people who come with them tend to stay longer in than tourists. Some hotels are partnering with hospitals to attract patients.

Nicaragua badly needs better roads, better education, and better hotels. Few hospitals are up to the standards expected by American medical tourists. Foreign investment in Nicaragua has been growing for the last 5 years, but most investment is from local businesses. Nelson Estrada is developing a $16 million spa hotel near the sea that would also offer cosmetic surgery and other wellness services to wealthy foreigners.

Nicaragua’s economic expansion is projected to decelerate slightly over the next three years yet maintain a steady rate of around 4.5%—according to the Nicaraguan Foundation of Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES).

Dr. Carlos Muñiz of FUNIDES explains, “The keys to success are   consolidating macroeconomic stability, diversifying our sources of foreign aid, increasing productivity, improving infrastructure, health and education, and strengthening our institutional democracy and governability.”

As the country increasingly weans itself off dependency, and considerable political interference, on loans from the USA and Venezuela- to where overseas money is for investment, medical tourism can play a small part in increasing tourism.

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