Market watchers including the IMF have been reporting that there is growing revival of tourism in the aftermath of the global economic crisis. As a part of this, there is growing momentum for economic recovery, leading to improved fiscal stance, more social spending, and balanced budget of those SIDS. Many SIDS have been announcing medical tourism program starts, most notably in the Caribbean and islands off the African coast (e.g. Mauritius, Seychelles, Zanzibar, etc.).
I know this because several of these SIDS have called upon me to advise them on strategy, development of framework laws for health tourism development and administration, and to help with competitive analysis of the SIDS health and wellness tourism market, specifically to share with them my observations of activity in the sector on other islands.
Many of the Caribbean and Central American SIDS don’t have the hospital inventory that matches that of Miami, Mexico, and other near-market competitors. To enter the market, they need either a comparable product or a unique product that defies competition as a degree of “sameness” to what others are doing. That may require construction of a health facility from the ground up, as well as a procurement plan to import health technologies and other equipment not produced locally. Contributions of tourism to GDP can be reduced by leakages of foreign exchange earnings due to imports of materials and equipment for construction, imports of consumer goods, and repatriation of profits earned by foreign investors.
Policy makers in SIDS thus face the challenge of integrating health and wellness tourism with national sustainable development, with an emphasis on strengthening inter-linkages of tourism with local economies, including local infrastructure building and local supply chains, and job creation. In some cases, SIDS have considered building a special economic zone for health services exportation, but that might not always be the optimal solution. This is especially true if the SIDS currently has a shortage of healthcare for its citizens. Many of my consulting engagements are with investors working to to bring healthcare investments for health tourism business to SIDS. The biggest problem they face is alignment with the local community healthcare needs of the SIDS while building a health tourism brand and finding the best way to accelerate profit and cash flow to shareholders.