03 June 2011

Sustainable medical tourism in Costa Rica

Our paper on sustainable medical tourism is now available online at

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to ascertain the relative importance of sustainable tourism practices to medical tourists. Sustainable management practices have become the accepted and appropriate model for tourism. Medical tourists, those who visit a foreign country for a medical procedure unavailable at home due to high costs, timeliness or local laws and customs, are asked how important a set of sustainable management practices are in their experiences. Selected for this study are the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC). These criteria have been designed to be the minimum practices to ensure sustainability for the business as well as protect the natural and cultural resources.

Design/methodology/approach – An online survey was employed to gather the travel patterns, motivations and socio-demographics of medical tourists and to test their ranking of the GSTC on a five-point Likert scale.

Findings – Medical tourists who travelled to Costa Rica, a recognized ecotourism destination, are more likely to support some of the sustainable criteria designed to maximize social and economic benefits to the local community and minimize negative impacts, than those who travelled elsewhere.

Research limitations/implications – While the sample size is modest, this is an exploratory assessment by medical tourists of sustainable management practices.

Practical implications – Research into sustainable medical tourism practices is timely given that hospitals are not traditionally in the tourism business, but are now rapidly seeking to provide this service to their foreign patients.

Originality/value – The paper presents what is believed to be the first investigation into medical tourists' preferences in sustainable tourism practices.


  1. Costa Rica is one of the countries capitalizing on expensive medical care in the USA. There are excellent doctors and well-trained personnel in the country’s hospitals. There are advanced medical technologies and popular surgeries include transplants. It is also credited for providing a high quality public and private healthcare services with prestigious and reputable hospitals and other health facilities. Thanks a lot.

  2. I have been attracted to Costa Rica for the fine medical care available.