New Surgery Packages Lure Tourists to Bogota
Have you ever considered a package holiday that included an extreme makeover or plastic surgery as well as five star luxuries and a city tour? So, how about going away for a two week break and coming back slimmer, younger looking, with brilliantly white teeth or with a full head of hair or no longer relying on glasses?
New “Surgery packages” in Bogota include medical procedures, nursing, post-operative treatment, travel insurance, transport, hotel, a tourist guide and air tickets.
Health tourism packages are on the increase in Colombia
At a recent tourism expo, at which agents and representatives for some 200 companies exhibited in downtown Bogota, large areas were given over to traditional tourist haunts such as Cartagena, the Amazon, the Coffee region and the new adventure sports capital of San Gil. However, on the ground floor, directly in line with the main entrance to the conference centre were some altogether more interesting and unusual stands.
Turismo de Salud or Health Tourism
Does Colombia have an ace up its sleeve? Try an improbable five! Juan Carlos Velez Uribe of ANATO (The Colombian Association of Tour Agents) thinks so: “We have five things that no other Latin American countries have. We have the Caribbean, the Pacific, the Amazon and the Andes, no other country in the region can boast such riches. And we have world class health facilities.”
Due to the liberalization of the specialized health services around the world, there is an increasing flow of patients from developed countries to emerging markets looking for high quality medical treatments at accessible prices.
One such Travel Agency that is enjoying the tourism boom is Colombia Tours Solutions which specialises in working with some of Colombia’s and therefore Latin America’s most qualified medical practitioners. The company offers 5 star accommodation and will have everything in place from flights right down to the smaller details of taxis, insurance and where to shop and eat when in Bogota.
One Million Tourists
In 2006, for the first time in Colombia’s history, more than a million tourists visited the country and according to Antonio Crespo head of Colombia Tours Solutions travel, approximately a three per cent of these visitors came for specialised treatments.
“During 2006 something like 40,000 international patients came to Colombia for quality medical and health services that are provided here and of course offered at a cost that sometimes comes in a third lower than those in the US and Europe.
“We set up Colombia Tours Solutions to change the concept of this type of tourism. Before people had to contact the Doctors themselves and organise flights and hotels, now they come directly to us and we facilitate everything,” says Crespo.
Crespo believes that Bogota has an advantage over other cities competing for Health Tourism visitors such as Medellin, Cali and Baranquilla.
“Despite the benefits of price and the quality of our Doctors in Bogota, in this city, being the capital, international visitors are comforted by being close to their embassies and that the security situation and conflict in Colombia are far removed from every day reality here. There is a tranquillity here.”
Cartagena’s celebrity status
While Bogota may boast tranquillity and capital status, it is Cartagena that remains Colombia’s prize asset. Not only in terms of tourism but Health Tourism as well since it received a celebrity guest in the shape of the formerly corpulent and obese Argentine football legend, Diego Maradona. After some stomach-stapling on the Caribbean coast he was returned to a more human size.
Industry Experts predict Colombian Tourism boom to continue
It appears that Mr Uribe of ANATO is not alone is his unbridled positivism for Colombia’s tourism possibilities. 72 per cent of Colombian Travel Agents believe that 2007 will be more productive than 2006. It will have to be if they are to hit their goal of the 2 million tourist mark in 2010 as this will require an increase of 25 per cent in the number of tourists, 137,000 to be exact, to total 864,000 in 2007 to stay on track. Interestingly, a spokesperson at the Ministry of Tourism believes that Colombia will receive 2 million tourists in a year sooner than in 2010.
Just imagine the numbers coming for specialized and aesthetic treatments.