Dr. Peter Tarlow
Tourism and health has taken on two new meanings.
can be broken down into two components, people who travel to a
for medical reasons, such as cancer centers or for specific operations
coronary bypass, and people who travel to a location for medicinal
as rest and relaxation. Medicinal tourism caters not to the sick
those who seek new levels of wellness. Examples of medicinal
spa or centers that cater to non-essential cosmetic re-makes such a
loss. Medical tourism of the hospital variety differs from
tourism (the spa variety) in that it aims to serve those who are
an ill person and often does not seek repeat business. Medicinal
on the other hand seeks repeat business and hopes that its clients will
on a regular basis.
Spa tourism has been around for thousands of years. In ancient
places such as northern Israel and Rome attracted visitors from the
much of the
known world. Across the millennia then spa tourism has provided
with non-invasive therapies, opportunities to improve physical fitness.
modern world spas also provide their guests with weight-loss
special cleansing diets and a variety of mineral and thermal skin
Many spas also often massage and yoga classes as other ways to improve
and to de-stress.
Both of these separate phenomena are often classified as "medical
tourism" and although their raisons d'être are very different,
share many tourism similarities. Medical tourism also has the
advantage that it can provide essential services to the local
population at the
same time that it is helping the local economy. To help you consider if
tourism is a good choice for your community consider some of the
what health factors make your community unique.
Saleable health factors can include exceptionally clean air, unique
minerals, quiet settings, or any other natural phenomenon that would
the person with a form of health benefits that are unique to your
- Make sure that your
medical personnel understand the importance of
good bedside manner. In the world of medical tourism
physicians, nurses, and therapists are more than medical professionals.
are also part of the tourism industry and their patients are also
"clients". That means that it is imperative to train medical
tourism workers not only in their particular medical field, but also
them with a clear understanding of customer service and the tourism
How they treat their patients may well determine a patient's
- Merge your tourism
offerings with the local ambiance.
Medical tourism is about creating psychological and physical harmony.
to offer a wide variety of options, but at the same time, be careful to
the place in which your tourism is located and integrate local culture
foods into your medical tourism site.
- Make your hospitals
Hospitals are often seen as places in which to get sick rather than to
well. Hospital tourism means integrating not only the patient
local community but also the whole family. During the patient's
phase, provide the patient's family with day trips that stay connected
hospital in case of emergency. Develop special brochures for
who are visiting sick friends and relatives. Remember that these are
are in your community due to a love one's illness. They need excellent
service, ways to relieve tension and still feel that they are close to
- Make sure that your
medical tourism meets industry standards. Medical
tourism is in an existential sense different from many other forms of
in that involves the health and well-being of a guest. Make sure to
standards, do not advertise what you cannot deliver and make sure that
understand the risks involved. The bottom line is that while
foreseeability is essential in all forms of tourism it is especially
in the area of medical tourism.
- Take the time to get your
medical tourism right!
Terms such as medical tourism, spa tourism and wellness tourism are
so loosely that no one is sure what these terms mean. Be truthful
advertizing; say what you offer and what you do not offer so that the
is absolutely clear about the experience s/he is purchasing. Also
certain that resources, such as water, (as used in spas) are tested on
regular basis so as not to turn a medicinal tourism experience into an
- If doing medical tourism;
make sure that you create partner
agencies. One of the problems in the area of medical tourism is
what does a
patient do after s/he has returned home and has a problem. Good
tourism centers can provide 24 hour/7 day a week medical hot lines, but
patient needs more than a phone. Make sure that medical records are
in the local language or in a language that the local doctor can
Establish partner hospitals around the world and make sure that medical
prescriptions can be filled in the customer's country.
- Deal with the insurance
problems before not after.
Many visitors in both medical and medicinal tourism may want to use a
insurance plan. Be sure to list in your literature payment
whose insurance your institutions can accept. There is
pleasant than having a fight over money when it comes to health and
disputes often cause visitors to have a negative reaction to the host
and not just the health provider. Make sure that health providers
that they are an essential part of the community's economic health and
they do or fail to do reflects on the whole community.
About the Author:
Peter E. Tarlow is the President of T&M, a founder of the Texas
TTRA and a popular author and speaker on tourism. Tarlow is a
specialist in the
areas of sociology of tourism, economic development, tourism safety and
Tarlow speaks at governors' and state conferences on tourism and
seminars throughout the world and for numerous agencies and
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