Health tourism had a favorable sustained growth during the last decade, however, the COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacted the tourism industry and, consequently, this sector.
According to the president of the Dominican Association of Health Tourism (ADTS), Alejandro Cambiaso, although they have managed to reverse the situation through new strategies, they require more support for the promotion of the destination.
“This new reality has driven new strategies that have catapulted health tourism, specifically in patients from the diaspora for plastic surgery and dentistry treatments. On the contrary, we had a notable decrease in the number of foreign patients we received from the Caribbean islands, the United States and Canada, a situation we have been able to reverse, but we need more support for the promotion of the destination,” he said.
He emphasized that the member institutions of the ADTS were key pieces in the recovery of the Dominican Republic, through the promotion of public-private initiatives and the innovation for the development of protocols of medical attention that were internationally recognized.
To continue the positioning of this sector, Cambiaso said that they are working on including health tourism in the national export strategy and as a country brand and in international promotions hand in hand with Prodominicana and the Ministry of Tourism.
“We are also promoting a proposal for a national strategy for the development of health tourism and the implementation of the National Health Tourism Council, initiatives that require the support of the Executive Branch,” he said.
What does health tourism imply and what benefits does it bring to the DR?
According to data from the Medical Tourism Association, health tourism is a market that worldwide is estimated at 100 billion dollars and represents 2.5% of air travel, the vast majority of these patients travel accompanied, without seasonality and with long stays.
“Health tourism in our country has had a great impact, considering that it is an activity that has recently been formalized and has allowed Dominican medicine to be strengthened through compliance with local regulations, certifications and International accreditations,” Cambiaso said.
Through this sector, it also promotes competition for quality, innovation and results, motivates the construction of new outpatient centers and third level hospitals with high technology and wellness hotels, helps to attract foreign exchange and foreign investment and supports the transfer of technology and knowledge, generating new jobs and productive linkages.
More than 47 thousand tourists come to the country in search of medical services.
In 2019, approximately 47,725 international patients were received for health tourism and 69,550 tourists were assisted for tourism medicine; for an estimated total of 117,275 international patients, according to data from the health and wellness tourism study.
“Around 70% of the patients who come to the country to receive medical tourism services travel accompanied and spend seven times more than a conventional tourist. Medical tourism has an economic revenue of more than 300 million dollars a year, not including income from medical tourism or wellness tourism,” added Cambiaso.
Among the nationalities that most visit the country in search of medical services are Dominicans living in the United States, patients from the Caribbean islands and Canadians.
Cambiaso explained that “Dominicans living abroad, especially in New York and the East Coast of the United States, visit us because of cost savings and confidence in Dominican doctors, patients from the Caribbean islands do not have third and fourth level health centers or high technology for diagnosis and treatment and they find our services economical and accessible”.
Regarding Canada, he expressed that in this country there are long waiting lists, while in the United States medicine is very expensive and “there are more than 60 million people without medical insurance and 120 million people without dental insurance”.
“Today rich countries engage in medical tourism for quick access with quality and better costs, developing countries travel for confidence and technology and poor countries because they do not have health services with basic quality standards,” he added.
The first destination for health tourism is Santo Domingo, followed by Santiago, Punta Cana and Puerto Plata.
Most demanded services
Selon M. Cambiaso, les principaux services recherchés par les touristes de santé sont la dentisterie, les implants dentaires, la chirurgie plastique, la chirurgie cardiovasculaire, l’orthopédie, l’ophtalmologie, l’urologie, les traitements contre le cancer, l’infertilité, la chirurgie robotique et la chirurgie de perte de poids, ainsi que les contrôles médicaux généraux.
Dans le domaine du bien-être, les services demandés sont principalement ceux liés à une vie et une alimentation saines, à la méditation, au yoga, au spa, à l’hydrothérapie et à la cosmétologie, entre autres.
L’année dernière a vu le lancement de la troisième édition du Guide du tourisme de santé et de bien-être du pays, qui cite certains centres médicaux engagés dans ce secteur, tels que le Centre de diagnostic médical avancé et de télémédecine (Cedimat), le Centre médical pour le diabète, l’obésité et les spécialités (Cemdoe), l’Hôpital métropolitain de Santiago (HOMS), l’Hôpital général de la Plaza de la Salud, l’Institut Espaillat Cabral, entre autres.
Selon l’indice 2020 du tourisme médical (MTI), la République dominicaine est la première destination de tourisme médical dans les Caraïbes, la deuxième en Amérique latine et la 19e dans le monde.
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