Health tourism boom heating up in Cuba

Posted: 12-Nov-15 11:14

Cuba's tourism is booming thanks to relaxed travel restrictions between the Caribbean nation and the USA and many tourists are visiting for medical treatment reasons.

Health tourism boom heating up in Cuba

The last year has been record breaking for Cuban tourism, thanks to thawing relations with the USA and other countries. During this time the country has also experienced a boom in the healthcare sector.

Patients from all over the world have been travelling to Cuba in order to seek treatment in five-star resorts, medical attention that is not always even available to native Cubans.

Visitors arriving in Cuba seeking medical treatment isn't a new thing – this country has been a popular health tourism destination for more than 20 years and health tourist attracts annual revenues of around $40 million for the Cuban economy. Patients from all over the world travel to Cuba for a wide range of treatments including neurological disorders, eye surgery, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.

Many people visit Cuba for medical tourism because travel abroad for surgery or other medical care is less expensive in Cuba or not available where the patient lives. Since the cost of medical treatment in the USA is so high, many people opt to leave the country if possible to receive cheaper treatment.

Those who are in support of medical tourism to Cuba argue that the influx of those seeking a medical holiday in Cuba are bringing in much-needed money for the country's healthcare system. However, those who are opposed to it are arguing that the private medical tourism creates a two-tier system. Some complain that the foreign health tourists are receiving a higher quality of care than Cuban citizens.

Now that the Obama administration has finally relaxed the long standing restrictions on travel to Cuba, Americans can visit the nation for a number of reasons including academic conferences, religious and educational activities, public performances and family visits. While tourism or travelling are still not allowed, the administration has lifted a restriction that requires Americans to travel with authorised groups or obtain a license to visit the island.

These changes could mean that many more people will travel to Cuba, even for purposes outside of the allowed categories. Cuban health care appeals to Americans because the island is so close, only about an hour's flight from Miami to Havana. The most popular destinations for Americans who currently travel for health care are the UK, Canada, Israel, Costa Rica and Singapore.


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