San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Medical Tourism

New plan aims to boost medical tourism industry in Costa Rica

Companies in the medical tourism sector in Costa Rica will benefit from a training program aimed exclusively at small- and medium-sized enterprises in six regions of the country.

The German Cooperation Agency (GIZ) and the Council for International Promotion of Costa Rica Medicine (PROMED) are leading a plan to invest $130,000 in training and coaching programs for 110 companies in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala.

At least 70 of these companies will be from Costa Rica, as the initiative to seek cooperation from the German government was developed here, said PROMED’s Executive Director Massimo Manzi.

Local businesses will be chosen from six areas: San José, Guanacaste, Nicoya, the Central Pacific, Los Santos and the Northern Zone. The Labor Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the National Training Institute, the Foreign Trade Promotion Office and members of the Doctors and Surgeons Association and the Dentists Association will help choose the beneficiaries.

In a first stage of the plan these groups will choose companies with the potential to provide services to foreign patients and that require only adequate training to serve these tourists.

Another process will choose the best prospects for the program to receive technical assistance in order to create productive chains with other companies.

“This means, for example, that a company that provides health services can establish a productive chain with hotels, tour operators and transport companies so they can offer tourists a full package for their treatment, but also for their recovery time,” Manzi said.

GIZ experts currently are evaluating potential instructors for training courses scheduled to begin in two months, according to estimates by PROMED.

Training will include both classroom and online courses so that selected companies can offer good customer service and market their services abroad, Manzi said.

Companies also will benefit from both Costa Rica’s current prestige in the health tourism market and its proximity to the United States, he added.

The latest survey by the International Medical Tourism Index ranks Costa Rica fifth in medical tourism services, just after Canada, the U.K., Israel and Singapore.

Manzi considers this position to be excellent, “considering that all countries above Costa Rica are developed economies.”

PROMED leaders believe the potential for Costa Rica to increase medical or wellness tourism is still wide open.

A potential market of 40 million people who require these services exists in the United States, according to PROMED research. “Of these, 1 percent … already is willing to seek these services elsewhere, as long as they are guaranteed quality and safety in both treatment and recovery,” the PROMED study states.

It is estimated that U.S. citizens this year will spend the equivalent of 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product on health services, and although the figures have dropped due to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a study last year by consultant group Gallup found that 15.6 percent of the U.S. population still does not have health insurance.

PROMED’s most recent data indicate that the country in 2011 attracted 48,253 medical tourists that generated  revenues of some $338 million. The goal for this year is to attract at least 100,000 of these tourists.

For further info, contact Massimo Manzi at: 2201-5263 or email PROMED at: info@promedcostarica.org.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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