To be able to talk about health and wellness tourism, better known as Wellness tourism, it is important to know part by part the following: 1.- What is tourism, 2.
1.-Tourism is an activity that we carry out when we move from the place where we currently reside to practice a leisure activity, a recreational activity, a trip related to social or cultural matters.
2.- Wellness, which means wellbeing, is a lifestyle or a way of life that promotes good practices, preventive rather than curative health and sustainable practices, seeking to maintain balance in the four most important axes which are: physical, psychological, social and spiritual.
Taking into account what tourism is and what Wellness is, we can now talk about the term "Wellness tourism", which refers to the practice of travelling to a destination different from our place of residence to obtain therapeutic or preventive health treatments, seeking physical, psychological, social and spiritual improvement, based on keeping a balance in our way of life, as well as getting to know the ancestral practices of the places we visit.
When we talk about Wellness tourism, it is of vital importance to identify what kind of service providers we will find, such as spa, thermal centre, yoga, meditation, temazcal, interactive activities in nature, organic food, balancing calorie and energy intake, of course always taking into account the sustainability of the destination.
On the other hand it is important to highlight that normally, if you decide to go on holiday, on average you go for two or three days, however in the Wellness format it takes one or two weeks, in this case, it has longer stays, whether you want to take care of yourself, or detoxify; For example, any healthy person comes who has a stable health situation and comes to practice a certain lifestyle or if we think of health per se, perhaps they come to detoxify, or to a spiritual retreat.
This format of Wellness tourism offers us an engine of economic growth (according to the Global Wellness Institute, we spend 180% more on Wellness services compared to regular tourist services), improves public health, promotes the protection of natural and cultural assets, impacts on the development of the workforce and the well-being of workers, improving the quality of life and social capital, as well as being one of the main promoters of sustainability.
3.- Now let's talk a little about "Medical Tourism", it is when a trip is made either short or long to attend to a health need, it is a form of tourism that seeks to be as quick as possible, and it is important to understand that the most developed countries are the main issuers of tourists in this category, as on average you pay 30% less taking into account the total expenditure, than if you did the interventions in the country of origin, and these are normally surgeries of an aesthetic, orthopaedic, ophthalmological type or orthodontic treatments.
In these cases it is essential to bring a companion who is not just going for a walk, basically it is literally the family support, often the interpreter of the person undergoing surgery, and precisely this person will want to be recovering in a hotel and return home as quickly as possible to finish the process, it is very difficult for patients to want to stay longer than strictly necessary, as the reason for travel is mainly for economic necessity, or who of you want to be away from home and your safety zone when everything hurts you?
On the other hand, speaking in a slightly more technical sense, medical tourism destinations must have trained and certified professionals, first class hospital facilities, appropriate means of transport, hotels with specialised services in this sector, emergency services, etc., since the viability of receiving patients depends on this infrastructure, and obviously we cannot forget that all this is essential for insurers to make the relevant agreements to cover these services in the receiving countries.
The Medical Tourism Association mentions that surgeries such as cardiology, cosmetic surgery, ophthalmology, oncology and dentistry, among others, are between 40% and 80% cheaper than in the United States, and that 80% of North Americans cross the border into Mexico for health reasons. "Between 1.4 million and 3 million foreign tourists visit destinations such as Mexico every year.
In terms of medical tourism, Mexico is the main power in this segment, with clinics on the North American side and operating theatres on the Mexican side. Because of taxes and salaries, etc., everything changes a lot in economic terms in favour of the southern border. Also in a similar circumstance, Thailand is in second place worldwide, serving the Chinese, New Zealand, Australian and European markets.
Basically, it is very important to emphasise with the tourism industry in general, the sector's associations and local governments, what the differences are between Wellness tourism and medical tourism, and that although at some point one could think of involving one segment with another, this will only be in very specific circumstances (perhaps in a dental or ophthalmological surgery that does not limit the patient so much and he or she can do some Wellness tourism), and not a common denominator as usually tends to be confused.
Mario Azael Reza Guerra.
President of the Regional Council of Health and Wellness Tourism (Mexico).
The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.