Barbados aims to build health tourism and wellness travel

 

Barbados wants to develop its health and wellness tourism business to help overcome the country’s travel industry reliance on seasonality and the vagaries of the global economic climate. The Barbados Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, has said that health and wellness tourism is growing faster the general tourism and Barbados plans to develop its health and wellness market.

A recent study by the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) found that Barbados needs to do more to capitalize on this profitable niche market. The government wants the private sector to lead the way, but the private sector responds that government has to lead. The BHTA study reported that as wellness tourism is not seasonal, there is year round potential for cosmetic surgery and non-invasive treatments. While many hotels on Barbados offer spa packages, there is a lack of other well-being facilities that package accommodation and treatment together to attract long-stay visitors. The BHTA report highlighted that Barbados can be a major player in fertility treatments, given the success of the Barbados Fertility Centre (BFC), which in 2005 launched an IVF package.

Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, in a speech to a health and wellness conference saw a global potential in an aging population with increasing demands for cosmetic surgery, spas and retirement communities. The other target market she identified was among the younger population, particularly in the U.S., seeking vacations that offer spa facilities, fitness and addiction treatment. She says that the island's established tourism infrastructure, with its capacity to support the movement of customers and provide world-class hotel services, is the platform for developing the country’s health and wellness tourism market, "Our markets offer attractive environments for the delivery of a health tourism product. Our proximity to the North American and European markets, climate and ambient environment, lower labour costs, reliable communications and transport infrastructure, first-class hotel and tourism services, an educated population, and well-trained practitioners in an established health and medical service in both public and private sectors, make Barbados a prime destination for visitors seeking health services."

A government Task Force on Health and Wellness Travel last year recommended that the government seek technical assistance to undertake a study and development plan; draft a Health and Wellness Tourism Development Incentives Act; establish a wellness council; develop new legislation to address medical tourism; and establish coordinating bodies to manage the six sectors outlined in the Health Tourism Continuum for Development in Barbados of; wellness promotion, complementary and alternative medicine, healthy food alternatives, assisted living, universal access to tourism products and services and conventional medicine.

Sandiford-Garner said that the establishment of National Health Care Quality Council is vital to ensure that health care standards are at world-class levels. The National Health Care Quality Council will be established to coordinate quality management in the health sector; provide annual reports on the quality of the sector; set benchmarks to measure performance; and establish performance standards and protocols. A wellness council has been established to act as the regulating body for wellness professionals.

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