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Draft strategy shows: T&T’s medical tourism hinges on diaspora
A new study on T&T’s prospects for developing a successful medical tourism sector points to the country’s diaspora population, estimated at 1.3 million and living mostly in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. According to a report in a recent edition of the International Medical Travel journal, there are plans to make T&T a prime destination for medical tourists and investors.
However, although there are “some regional and diaspora medical tourists from neighbouring Caribbean territories and the United States”, the sector is limited and underdeveloped. The report states: “The Government of T&T has identified the health tourism sector as a niche for potential growth and is implementing strategies for promoting and developing products and services. To capitalise on the potential, a plan is being made to develop to expand the existing market and promote medical tourism.
CTA Economic & Export Analysts has prepared a draft strategy for medical tourism funded by the Commonwealth Secretariat on behalf of the T&T Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI). According to the draft strategy, there are numerous opportunities for growing this unique segment of the services sector.” The strategy is to increase the number of medical tourists visiting by 5.500 within three years, then grow at a rate of 20 per cent a year.
The study shows there is excess capacity in the health system. T&T’s ten private hospitals have 39,000 beds, with 31,000 being used per year. Advantages include the fact that the country is the commercial centre of the Caribbean with a reputation as an excellent investment site for international businesses, a stable economy, modern infrastructure and qualified people.
“To build momentum for foreign direct investment in healthcare several new developments and facilities upgrades are under way. Investors are now being sought for leisure attractions on Trinidad’s northwest coast with the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) working to turn more than 14,000 acres into one of the most inviting tourist destinations in the region. The CDA is inviting investors to design, build, finance and operate these recreational facilities,” the report states.
“Under construction is a new national oncology centre, which will be a model for health tourism in the Caribbean and serve as the main treatment centre for cancer in the country. It will open in November 2014 and will offer cancer treatment and diagnostic technologies such as the CyberKnife, PET/CT and nuclear imaging. The country wants to promote itself for medical treatment and for wellness holidays.”
The study concludes that co-operation, co-ordination and awareness raising within the country and development of a national brand and identity as a medical tourism destination are essential to realising the potential of the sector. A key role is to ensure that the sector works together to promote collective interests within T&T and globally. “This is a necessary condition to future plans and any hope of achieving set targets.”
Success also depends on the various local government bodies, private healthcare, airlines, travel agents and local hotels working together and the government committing funds to promote medical tourism. The report concludes: “Previous attempts at turning a desire to increase medical tourism into action have failed due to the inability of the various parties to work together, and the government failing to provide adequate funding; perhaps this time it will be different.”
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