Barbados has outlined plans to develop its health and wellness tourism sector to help overcome the reliance of the country’s travel industry on seasonality and the vagaries of the global economic climate.
The Barbados Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, has said that health and wellness tourism is growing faster than the overall travel and tourism industry, and Barbados plans to develop its health and wellness market.
A recent study by the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) found that Barbados needs to do more to capitalize on this profitable niche market. The study reported that as wellness tourism is not seasonal, and that there is year round potential for cosmetic surgery and non-invasive treatments.
While many hotels on Barbados offer spa packages, there is a lack of other well-being facilities that package accommodation and treatment together to attract long-stay visitors. The BHTA report highlighted that Barbados can be a major player in fertility treatments, given the success of the Barbados Fertility Centre (BFC), which in 2005 launched an IVF package.
Ministry of Health Secretary, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, said the island could reap the rewards of a global aging population with increasing demands for cosmetic surgery, spas and retirement communities.
The other target market she identified was among the younger population, particularly in the U.S., seeking vacations that offer spa facilities, fitness and addiction treatment. She says that the island’s established tourism infrastructure, with its capacity to support the movement of customers and provide world-class hotel services, is the platform for developing the country’s health and wellness tourism market.
“Our markets offer attractive environments for the delivery of a health tourism product. Our proximity to the North American and European markets, climate and ambient environment, lower labour costs, reliable communications and transport infrastructure, first-class hotel and tourism services, an educated population, and well-trained practitioners in an established health and medical service in both public and private sectors, make Barbados a prime destination for visitors seeking health services.”
A government Task Force on Health and Wellness Travel last year recommended that the government seek technical assistance to undertake a study and development plan; draft a Health and Wellness Tourism Development Incentives Act; establish a wellness council; develop new legislation to address medical tourism; and establish coordinating bodies to manage the six sectors outlined in the Health Tourism Continuum for Development in Barbados of; wellness promotion, complementary and alternative medicine, healthy food alternatives, assisted living, universal access to tourism products and services and conventional medicine.