Saúl Ancona Salazar: Making Medical Tourism happen in Yucatán

On Tuesday May 10th, The Yucatan Times conducted an exclusive interview with the Secretary of Tourism Promotion of Yucatán, Saul Ancona Salazar. 

The subject: Medical Tourism in Yucatán. This is what the secretary told our reporter:

– TYT: What are SEFOTUR’s  plans to develop and promote medical tourism in Yucatan?
The Plan for the promotion and development of medical tourism in Yucatan is an integration strategy that involves the following government agencies:

Yucatan State Ministry of Health as the governing body of everything that has to do with health in our state and whose support has been absolutely invaluable to advance in this field.

Yucatan State Government as the authority that creates an appropriate environment to promote the state economy.

Secretariat of Tourism Promotion (SEFOTUR) we are entrusting to coordinate these efforts in order to make the tourism industry grow in our state. We are putting a special focus on the part of medical tourism.

And of course, the private sector also plays an important role in this integration strategy.

– TYT: How did the idea of the website come about?
The website was developed as a digital platform to serve a potential target audience in the United States and Canada, seeking high end medical services at competitive prices.

This web portal works as an online tool to promote the state of Yucatan as a destination that features world class medical and hospital  infrastructure, as well as highly qualified specialists and medical personnel.

At this point it is important to note that the specialists featured on are:
• Certified by the State Ministry of Health
• Graduates of well known universities and higher education institutions in Mexico and abroad.
• Practice in facilities that meet international standards.
• Have gone through a certification process with international recognition.

This gives way to other side issues such as:

The medical tourist receives a high quality treatment within international standards.
His health or physical integrity is never at risk while being medically treated in our state.

And then come in second term (for medical tourists), all the attractions of cultural tourism, beach, adventure, eco-tourism, etc., along with a wide range of recreational activities such as sport fishing, golf, sailing, scuba diving, etc. that can be performed in our state by the patient after being discharged from hospital.

Yucatan Tourism Secretary Saúl Ancona Salazar. (PHOTO:
Yucatan Tourism Secretary Saúl Ancona Salazar. (PHOTO:

– TYT: What are some of the benefits to Yucatan of developing and promoting medical tourism?
At this point we can talk about two aspects:

1.) Social Question – Economic:
As mentioned above, tourism is an industry that obviously entails an economic benefit to the entity, creates jobs and therefore is recognized as an important factor of social development.
For example:
• The “national tourist” leaves an estimated economic spill of $ 1,800 pesos a day.
• The “convention tourist”  leaves a rough economic spill of $ 10,000 pesos a day.
• The “medical tourist” leaves an estimated economic spill of $ 20,000 pesos a day (because it involves medical treatment, inputs, and the traveler is usually accompanied by a friend or relative).

So that’s the great importance of Medical Tourism in terms of economic impact.

2.) Image and prestige of Yucatan as a destination for Medical Tourism:
We must show the world that Yucatan has the potential to become a medical tourism destination known worldwide, with the capacity to serve a large number of patients in different specialities and has a large and robust medical infrastructure, a medical school founded in 1833, and a tradition in medicine dating back to 1562, when the first hospital opened in the city of Merida (not to mention that the ancient Maya had deep knowledge of herbal medicine for thousands of years).

A scientist of the stature of the eminent Japanese doctor Hideyo Noguchi came to our state in the year 1920 where, in collaboration with local physicians, helped to control an epidemic of yellow fever, which later was totally eradicated from Yucatan.

Just to mention some of the historical facts in relation to Medicine in Yucatan.


– TYT: What is the role of SEFOTUR in relation to the promotion and development of medical tourism?
At this point we are talking about a “Triple Helix“:

Health Ministry: as the entity responsible for the professionalization of medicine in Yucatan, as well as the entire medical infrastructure (public and private) in the state, this agency aids in the certification of our valuable human capital.

Ministry of Economic Development: Supports the development of the medical tourism activity by providing the necessary economic resources to finance promotion and events’ organization.

Secretariat of Tourism Promotion: The spokesperson responsible for spreading the message and direct it effectively to those identified as potential markets. SEFOTUR is the face of our state to the world and obviously is responsible for implementing programs and actions to promote, encourage and stimulate all tourism activities in Yucatan.

The coordination between these three units, allows us to create a platform for promoting medical tourism.

– TYT: From which foreign countries does Yucatan currently attract the most medical tourists?

The countries from which we get the most Medical Tourism are the United States, Canada and Belize.

In the case of the United States and Canada, increased air connectivity has been instrumental in promoting medical tourism. We currently have direct flights to Merida from Houston, Miami, Dallas Fort Worth and Toronto; this increases the arrival of visitors to our city and potentiates tourism.

Most American and Canadian patients who have come to Yucatan to receive medical treatment, have expressed great satisfaction with the services received, costs are extremely reasonable for them, the kindness and attention of the medical staff in Yucatán has captivated them, the time of response has surprised them, and the security and tranquility prevailing in Merida gives them great confidence in our city as a destination for medical tourism.

In the case of Belize there is a long relationship between Yucatan and that country by geographical proximity, but specifically as it pertains to medical services, Belizeans have come to Yucatan to”see the doctor” for many decades.


– TYT: From what other states of Mexico does Yucatan currently attract more medical tourists?
Mostly Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco and Quintana Roo, but also to a lesser number from other states of the Mexican Republic.

– TYT: What are some of the other cities-states-countries with which Yucatan is competing for medical tourists?
Quintana Roo (although we are certain that Yucatan is more competitive than the neighboring state of Quintana Roo in medical services).

Other cities in the country are very strong in this area, and impossible to compete with them for different reasons.

For example, Tijuana and Mexicali, are obviously border cities that have a huge influx of foreigners who can move from states like California or Arizona, arrive to receive a medical service and return home the same day.

And of course, Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey have extensive medical infrastructure.

– TYT: Finally, as Secretary of Tourism would you like to send a message to The Yucatan Times readers?
Of course, I would like to tell the expats living in Yucatan, that they have become the “unofficial spokespersons” for our beautiful state, as they share with family and friends so many successful experiences of life.

And I would like to thank all the people who visit our state, thank them for the trust they have for our land and our people, and remind them that Yucatan has what they are looking for.


Interview by Alejandro Azcárate for The Yucatan Times.