The Changing World of Coastal, Island and Tropical Tourism Conference
Martinique, French West Indies
27 - 29 January 2011
Sea, sun, sand and ... Selecting Surgery, an exploration of Medical Tourist Travel Behavior
Keywords: medical tourism, travel choice behavior, sustainable tourism
A challenge for marketing coastal and island destinations is the recognition of the spatial choice behavior of tourists. Mass tourism facilities depend on repeat visitors as well as attracting new first time tourists. As these traditional sun and sand holiday destinations mature, tourism promoters are expanding opportunities to attract a different kind of tourist. Since many of these resorts are all-inclusive facilities including a Spa, one potential expansion may be to market to health, wellness or medical tourists.
One primary goal of travel research is to understand what factors might influence the decision-making process. In this manner, tourism planners can identify the determinants of patronage patterns in order to estimate the returns on investments. Travel occurs because people seek alternatives in space where participation in some activity takes place. Like any travel, medical travel is where an individual seeks to meet some desired objective by selecting among alternative hospital destinations and choosing one.
Geographic research in travel and tourism has found that individuals either repeat visits to the same destination or diversify their choices. Since medical tourists are facing travel for a sensitive personal issue, awareness of their travel behavior is important for island and coastal destinations electing to market medical tourism.
For example, in Costa Rica, the Medical Tourism Development Project is proposing the construction of a private hospital, a Robert Trent Jones golf course and complementary support and living facilities. This 1000 hectare property is minutes from the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia and thirty minutes from the beaches of the Guanacaste Province. Will this facility attract individuals who have vacationed in Costa Rica before or will it attract new tourists?
This presentation highlights the finding of an survey that gathered the travel patterns and motivations, preferences of sustainable tourism management practices and socio-demographics of medical tourists. Medical tourists considered several different destinations prior to their treatment. The data suggests that repeat visitors are more likely to have a level of comfort in their chosen destination. On the other hand, those who exhibited diversified travel behavior were more likely to want their hospital choice to be affiliated with an American Hospital and accredited. There were no differences for preference of sustainable management practices between the repeat and diversified travelers.