Bahamas, Fiji and Jamaica seek medical tourism business

 

Jamaica, Fiji and The Bahamas are all islands and have three other things in common. They all rely heavily on the tourist trade, have all suffered in the last year, and see medical tourism as a way of replacing lost revenue and jobs. Whether they are island dreamers or interesting new locations, only time will tell.

The Grand Bahama Port Authority's (GBPA) bid to attract medical tourism to the island will be supported by the government, said Minister of Health Hubert Minnis, but only when the plan is properly organized and there are guidelines in place, “The idea of medical tourism is an excellent one." GBPA has identified two areas –cardiovascular medicine and orthopaedic medicine – for specialized hospitals for Grand Bahama and a developer investor kit has targeted the top 10 or 15 hospitals in the United States for the island. The intention is to attract only certain types of medical procedures and to start off with those with a relatively low risk to avoid any accidents that could potentially ruin the business. GBPA chairman Hannes Babak said last year, “We want to lead medical tourism and that will help local practitioners and give them a great facility in terms of a hospital." The GBPA chairman had talked of securing a deal for a $100 million 100-room hospital. It is now unclear if that plan is still on the drawing board as he has not been at the GBPA since his work permit expired on December 31st 2009.

Tourism Fiji sees medical tourism as a promising and emerging market for attracting more tourists. Patrick Wong of Tourism Fiji says much needed investment in the area in partnership with an international brand is also important, "Medical tourism would be a boost developing our tourism industry. It would require a very high standard of medical villages investing in the likes of retirement villages, cosmetic surgery, health institutions, health farms and other specialized medically related establishments. Cosmetic surgery as seen on the television series Make Over will encourage people to come to Fiji for this.” Tourism Fiji sees medical tourism as a niche market it would like to pursue in partnership with international hospital groups. Indian group Apollo has, according to Tourism Fiji, shown interest in a site at Lautoka. Indian investors toured the country in 2006 during an attempt by the Health Ministry to attract investment, but none pursued any projects.

In Jamaica, health and wellness tourism is now high on the agenda of tourism minister Edmund Bartlett who says he will be pushing that industry full force with the expectation that it will yield large revenues. He says the industry is yet to be fully explored despite all the basic fundamentals being in place. The minister says Jamaica has a major advantage in its dental care based on expertise available and cost of the service. He says the country compares well with developed countries and would fit well with an ideal vacation spot, "We are working with the ministries of health and industry to review and create legalization and regulations. I have been getting a number on inquires about health and wellness tourism, followed by proposals, two of which we have taken on board and are working with."

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