The Yucatan Times had an exclusive interview with Irak Greene, director of tourism business development with Yucatan’s Secretariat of Tourism Development (SEFOTUR).
Greene started by saying that SEFOTUR’s dedicated medical tourism website, yucatanhealthcare.com, has received more than 20 million visits, with 70 percent of visitors seeking information in English.
TYT: What are SEFOTUR’s plans to develop and promote medical tourism in Yucatan?
In 2016, SEFOTUR is participating in two international specialized Medical Tourism fairs. The first is called Destination Health, in Ottawa, Canada from September 9 to 11. The second is organized by the Medical Tourism Association (MTA) in Washington, D.C. in the United States, and will take place from 25 to 28 September.
In both events, the state of Yucatan will be present as “Yucatan Healthcare” to promote the state as a competitive world-class medical tourism destination.
SEFOTUR is also preparing a campaign to promote medical tourism worldwide including video and photography shoots, a catalog featuring a medical directory, and a strong communication campaign on social networks, among other actions, in order to get ready to attend these important international fairs.
Regarding the development of this segment of tourism, SEFOTUR is constantly working in conjunction with the State Ministry of Health (Secretaría de Salud de Yucatán: SSY) and the State Secretariat of Economic Promotion (Secretaría Estatal de Fomento Económico: SEFOE) to support clinics and doctors to obtain the certifications that qualify them as international medical practitioners.
We are also working closely on the training of travel operators and medical facilitators who are in direct contact with prospective patients who want to come to the city of Merida for medical purposes.
Every 3 months the “Yucatan Healthcare” medical database directory is updated, in order to increase our offer constantly with more specialists.
TYT: How did the idea of the website www.yucatanhealthcare.com come about?
Medical tourism has been happening in the city of Merida for several years now, the concept was known, but the value chain was not properly organized. That is when the state government decided to start the project, involving all the different actors from the public and the private sectors, so they can work together looking for a common goal.
At the same time, the platform was created with the idea of an integral strategy that could allow visitors to meet all the parts involved, from doctors, hospitals, clinics and laboratories to hotels and spas, and even embassies and consulates; all backed by the state government providing certainty and credibility to the medical tourist. And the website was developed as a bilingual portal, in order to reach a much higher audience.
TYT: What are some of the benefits Yucatan would receive in developing and promoting medical tourism?
Of course a greater economic spill that would benefit different relevant sectors of our society; not only for the health sector but also Tourism, as people traveling for medical purposes have to stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, go shopping, they usually travel with companions, and they even rent cars, play golf, go fishing or simply take a tour to enjoy the city.
TYT: What is the role of SEFOTUR’s Tourism Business Development Liaison in relation with medical tourism?
Our department is in charge of carrying out participation in international fairs as well as to create advertising campaigns and communication strategies to promote medical tourism.
In this matter, we always encourage contact with companies certified in this segment, as well as academies that can provide training for our local medical facilities and companies.
We have direct relationship with physicians and medical facilitators, as well as spas and other “wellness tourism” companies; so that together we work to improve the offer.
In the United States and Canada, we are the direct contact with foreign companies engaged in medical tourism.
TYT: What foreign countries send more medical tourists to Yucatan?
Mainly the U.S. Thousands of expats are coming to our state looking for a second home (or a new home) in the Yucatan.
Our second market is of course Canada. “Snowbirds” come every 6 months when it is too cold up North, and take advantage of a wide array of medical procedures.
And third we have Belize, as their country does not have the medical facilites we have here, sometimes the doctors there are not capable of performing certain surgical procedures, or they just decide to come to Merida for medical reasons.
TYT: What other countries could also be potential markets for medical tourism in Yucatán?
We believe that Latin America could be an attractive medical tourism hub, due to its proximity and savings in price and quality.
TYT: What Mexican states currently send more medical tourists to Yucatán?
Mostly the Southeast states, such as Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche and Quintana Roo.
TYT: What other cities are competition for Yucatan in terms of medical tourism?
Clearly the city of Cancun is a strong competitor to Merida, and a big advantage is their comprehensive connectivity.
On the other hand, the border cities that are right next to the United States have a lot medical tourists, and obviously other cities with a large medical infrastructure such as Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City.
TYT: What message would SEFOTUR like to send for all people who are planning to come to Yucatán for Medical Tourism purposes?
I think people should be more aware of what the state of Yucatan has to offer, especially the city of Merida, on the issue of health.
An important advantage we have is air connectivity, which increasingly is expanding with more international flights. But probably our most important advantage is security, Yucatan is the undisputed most secure and safe state in Mexico, and that is crucial. And besides, we offer internationally certified specialists and medical facilities; high quality medical services, savings in prices, and most of all, the warmth of our people.
All the people who had positive medical experiences in Yucatan will spread the word, and I am sure that every time we would have more and more tourists seeking our top quality medical services.
Interview by Alejandro Azcárate for The Yucatan Times
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