Mauritius needs strategic focus to develop medical tourism sector

 

Among the critical factors for a country to be a successful medical tourism destination it has to have geographical proximity, good airlinks, comfortable environment, friendly people, unrestricted travel, and a broad spectrum of accommodation choices for both high-end clients and less well-off ones. All that before even looking at the medical care, quality of hospitals and price.

Mauritius satisfies many of these conditions and the number of privately owned clinics and hospitals is increasing. The government is working on a regulatory framework to address the socio-economic and ethical issues surrounding high tech cures. It is in the process of setting up the appropriate frameworks for stem cells treatments. Mauritius has its own medical schools, and many doctors are trained overseas. Foreign doctors fly in to practice locally. The Mauritian healthcare facilities treated some 11,000 foreigners in 2010 year and about 100,000 medical tourists are expected to visit the island by 2020.

Most medical tourists come from the South West Indian Ocean region, with a few from South Africa, France and the UK. If Mauritius wants to achieve the target of tenfold increase in medical tourist arrival by 2020, it has to diversify its markets. The long distance from Europe means patients are reluctant to travel to Mauritius for surgery. To succeed, Mauritius must focus on the regional market. But almost all patients from Southern Africa tend to go to South Africa, while those of Eastern Africa find easy access to Nairobi, which is positioning itself as a regional medical centre. Perhaps the best opportunity for Mauritius is to drastically improve the marketing strategy in the oil-rich countries of the Middle East, where it would compete with many others including Turkey and India. With its 350 million population, the Arab world still has a great need for treatment overseas; but with local hospitals mushrooming, how many years that will last is debatable. Mauritius only needs a fraction of this market to achieve the figures. Mauritius must actively raise an awareness campaign on this market, overcome its image deficit in the Middle East and multiply the air connections towards this region.

Another potential and perhaps longer term market is China. Chinese enterprises are spending $1 billion on a special enterprise zone in Mauritius, on the island a thousand miles off the coast of the African continent. Mauritius is a gateway between Asia and Africa and could act as a regional business hub due to its market-access, stability and business climate. Mauritius is a member of the Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. Only 10 to 15% of the 40,000 jobs to be created will go to Mauritians, the majority will be Chinese expatriate workers who will need medical care. The zone will be a Chinese administration centre for all the African countries that the Chinese are investing in, so the zone will be mostly offices, hotels, apartments, recreational services, schools and medical facilities.

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