Medical Tourism Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a Central American country that is known for its beaches both on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts as well as rich biodiversity. Its capital, San Jose, hosts the major international airport and is the jumping off point for exploration of its jungles, volcanoes, rainforests, and, of course, beaches. The country’s population of approximately 5 million people is friendly and welcoming to its vibrant tourist attractions.
The country provides universal health care to its citizens and permanent residents. The public system is regularly upgraded by the Government while investment in the private sector has produced excellent hospitals and clinics, especially dental offices. Long a desirable medical tourism destination, visitors can enjoy high quality dental and medical services in state-of-the art clinics and hospitals for affordable prices. The investment in the health care system has paid off for its citizens who enjoy one of the longest life expectancies in the world.
Costa Rica has a strong and favorable relationship with both the United States and Canada. These two countries send the majority of tourists to Costa Rica and these visitors are among the thousands of medical tourists who visit each year. With a pleasant climate, laid-back approach to life, tourist attractions, and well-trained healthcare professionals, Costa Rica has been and remains a leader in the international medical travel sector.
Becoming the Leading Medical Tourism Hotel and Resort in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has been a popular medical tourism destination for decades, offering medical travelers top quality dental care and plastic surgery as well as more complex medical procedures at its hospitals.
Senior management at the Ramada Plaza Herradura Hotel and Resort in San Jose wanted to become the leading medical travel destination hotel in Costa Rica and beyond. It enlisted the services of Stackpole & Associates, a market research, marketing and organizational development consulting company, to work with the hotel to develop a comprehensive program of services for medical travelers. Elizabeth Ziemba, Medical Tourism Training’s President, was a Senior Consultant working on this project.
After meeting with members of the senior management team, a plan was formulated to include:
A survey of current and past hotel guests to inquire about use of health and medical services while in Costa Rica; additional services that the hotel could offer to enhance customer satisfaction; and willingness to return and/or refer other guests to the hotel;
An assessment of the health traveler experience including the physical layout, guest services, dining and other related services as well as obstacles facing health travelers
A training course to increase staff awareness of the needs of medical tourists and skills needed to better serve all guests including health travelers;
A web site page dedicated to medical tourists;
Creation of menus designed to assist guests with dietary restrictions;
Scripting and development of a story board to produce a video for all guests with special segments for health travelers.
With the support and participation of the hotel’s senior management team, the plan was implemented with some surprising results.
The electronic survey was email to thousands of guests by Stackpole & Associates as an independent third party, assuring confidentiality of health information. The survey results revealed that many guests had come to Costa Rica for a variety of health and medical treatments – guests that could benefit from the additional services and physical accessibility of the hotel. Respondents also indicated an interest in receiving more spa services if available at the hotel.
Based on these and other findings, the hotel management promoted the “health traveler friendly” amenities and available spa services to generate revenues and increase customer satisfaction.
The training program, the first of its kind, was delivered on-site and was offered to all members of staff including senior management, front desk, administration, housekeeping, grounds keeping, and kitchen. While many employees had “heard something” about medical tourism, many did not know about the importance of these guests to the hotel. In addition, the cultural sensitivity training had an immediate impact as staff was puzzled by the response of some Asian guests who were reserved in their interactions. By offering helpful hints for serving clients from around the world, staff members felt better prepared to deliver excellent customer service.
The hotel’s web site was one of the first to dedicate information tailored to medical travelers. In addition to attracting guests, it helped to establish the hotel as a leader in the sector while generating revenue to grow its financial health.
The training course and assessment process developed for this client served as the basis for the founding of Medical Tourism Training as it was clear that hotels, resorts, and spas could benefit from the experience gained from the visionary leadership of the team at the Ramada Plaza Herradura.