The difference between wellness and medical tourism
By Raoul Andrews Sudre
Preamble: This lecture is only designed to inform on the new type of Tourism that is developing around the world, without any secondary message nor advice on why or how to partake.
Medical Tourism is predominantly an International phenomenon. It is primarily the result of the out of control cost of medical procedures in most Occidental countries whether they be in Europe or in the United States. The secondary factor that has favored the development of this activity comes from the mediocrity of post-operative care found in most western developed countries today! In the United States, as the Healthcare debate goes on, the issue is essentially concentrated of how to pay for Health care? Not necessarily on how to decrease cost: neither, of care nor on how to improve the quality of care! So when one compares cost and services, it will be evident that in most cases it will make a lot of sense to travel elsewhere to get taken care of! So essentially Medical Tourism will flourish as a result of Western countries inabilities to face the constant increase of cost and the decline of service quality.
Some examples: I had two hip replacement surgeries done in Florida. Surgery was great, post op. a disaster, cost for both: $130,000,00! same procedures in Singapore or in India with excellent surgeons many trained in the US or Europe, post op. in five stars hotel quality facilities, with five stars service: cost including travel to and fro. From East Coast US : $20,000.00. Another example: Full dental reconstruction done by a friend of mine who lives in Miami: $ 12,000.00 in Bogota Columbia! Same procedure in similar dental clinic in Miami: $100,000.00.
In Europe, Medical Tourism is primarily centered on procedures that are not reimbursed by the State, mostly Cosmetic surgery, or procedures not recognized, therefore not authorized in that particular country. Face lifts, Breast augmentation etc. cost - to - of what it costs in Europe when you have it done in the Middle East or in North Africa! Most often done by European or American surgeons!
Wellness Tourism on the other hand is a totally different animal? It has emerged from two significant trends in the way people take vacations: Few today are satisfied to use their vacation time to get a tan on a beautiful sandy beach somewhere! Most want to make their vacations profitable for their wellbeing, and to use that time for self improvement both intellectually and physically. This change in the way people view how they will use their vacation time is the answer to the explosion of Spas in hotels and mostly resorts worldwide. The other reason Wellness tourism is increasing internationally has some similarities with the reasons Medical Tourism is becoming more and more popular? The quality of services and the cost of these services compared to what is available at home!
In both cases savvy travelers have discovered that for a number of reasons anything that touches service has become problematic in Western countries: the notion of serving others has been vilified by political pundits and trade unions, schools and particularly universities look down at service oriented jobs and professions. The result: it is extremely difficult to find good service anywhere in the West, unless you pay through the nose! And that is one of the main reasons people in these countries will travel far and long to go where on the contrary service is respected and done well, with a smile. And of course in all cases there is a cost factor involved!
Let us look at some examples: Millions of Europeans travel to the Far East every year to take wellness oriented vacations! Aspen Resorts International surveyed hundreds of these German, French, British tourists to find out why some traveled on flights upwards of 20 hours to go there? Americans more and more are doing the same, even if their reasons are a bit different? Their answers summarize simply the issue we are discussing:
Cost: a two weeks hotel-Spa vacation including all meals, flight and an average of three treatments per day all inclusive in a four stars resort averaged: $2700.00 compared to similar package in the US at $ 7,000.00. Services: Superior service, superior delivery of services at a level not found in the West!
Services: Wellness in Europe is primarily delivered by Medical professionals and through a socialist controlled society makes it difficult to find non-medically oriented spas! The wellness tourist is not sick; he/she does not want to be reminded of a clinic or hospital! They prefer to be in an exotic pleasant environment which they do not find at home. They prefer the massages and environment they find in Asian spas!
Spa savvy Americans (yes there are more and more of these!) are sick and tired of receiving:”Full body massages” that do not cover feet and hands, upper thighs, stomack, pectoral muscles, gluts! And most of them do not appreciate being transformed into a Mummy because the therapist has a problem with nudity! That alone justifies the trip! as reflected in a survey done in Singapore, Phukett and Chang-Mai in Thailand where 87% cited these reasons for their Spa destinations choice.
Wellness tourism nationally addresses those Americans who do not feel comfortable traveling to foreign countries but feel the need to choose a Vacation destination that will make it possible for them to have access to treatments and programs that will improve their general health. They choose their hotel or resort based on the quality of the Spa and complementary programs (yoga, hiking, cycling, miscellaneous physical activities) Spa finder’s surveys tell us that they represent 82% of vacation spa goers.
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