Plans for Nicaragua to promote medical tourism

 

A new medical tourism hotel in Nicaragua will help it compete with Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama.

In San Juan del Sur, there are plans for a hotel with 61 rooms, foreign chefs, ocean-view rooms, a four-star rating, and a whole floor dedicated to medical treatment for its guests. The owner of the proposed medical resort, Nelson Estrada, claims that his development will be the first of its kind in Nicaragua, “No one else is offering this. If I can get the necessary investment, work will begin on Solest MedResort, Hotel and Spa by August and the project will open in 2015. Once completed, the medical resort will offer clients a boutique hotel and an extensive range of medical procedures all under one roof. The medical resort will specialize in elective cosmetic surgery, but I hope to expand available treatments in the future.”

Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas
in Managua is the only JCI hospital in the country. It is a private hospital treating both international and national patients, including some from the USA and Canada. Arlen Perez of Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas says, “There are few hospitals equipped for medical tourism here. Nicaragua has the same elements as Costa Rica to make medical tourism a success: safety, quality of doctors, easy access and experience. But Nicaragua has the added benefit of being less expensive than Costa Rica.”

While Nicaragua has no statistics for medical tourism revenue, Perez says that most of Hospital Metropolitano’s foreign clientele are US expatriates who reside in either Managua or Granada. The hotel is close to reaching its target of 50 medical tourists a month, although it seems that they are meaning international customers who already live in the country, rather than people who travel there just for medical treatment. The most common treatments are dental work, orthopaedic and cosmetic surgery. In the capital, only Hospital Metropolitano and Hospital Central are actively promoting themselves as medical-tourism options for foreign travellers.

Farmstay El Portón Verde has teamed up with nearby Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas to provide top-flight hospital transport, translation services, after care, recuperation and relaxation in the small bed and breakfast hotel in the hills of Managua.

While neighbours Mexico, Costa Rica Panama, and Guatemala are all attracting medical tourists, in Nicaragua it is still at the very early stages. Promotion so far has been patchy and uncoordinated, with an outdated concentration on the tourism aspects.

Nicaragua is striving to overcome the after effects of dictatorship, civil war and natural calamities, which have made it the second poorest country in America. It has little or no infrastructure. Former Marxist guerrilla leader Daniel Ortega is president. The USA has been vocal in its opposition to Ortega, who is seen as one of the main players in an increasingly assertive anti- US bloc in Latin America; which makes it harder to attract American medical tourists.

60% of all visitors to Nicaragua come from Central and South America, with most of the rest originating from the USA, Canada and Europe. If Nicaragua is to compete on medical tourism it needs a coordinated promotional campaign. The government has indicated support, but has yet to offer any actual financial or marketing assistance. The Nicaraguan Tourism Board (INTUR) is helping Nicaraguan hospitals to create a national association for the promotion of medical tourism, but still refuses to commit any money to the project.

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