Medical Tourism Destination Pairings: Overwater Resorts

Overwater resorts would qualify for a unique destination pairing in medical tourism. They give the visitor a chance to explore new adventures and mix in a little elective healthcare.

After all, why would someone who needs an elective healthcare service choose to book a medical tourism package if they can afford care in the comfort of their home town? There has to be something more compelling than a medical appointment in a foreign country at a cheaper price or the promise of anonymity.

Savor the experience

Medical tourism is experiential, the same as sports tourism, religious tourism, culinary tourism or ski tourism, cycling tourism, or even sports car driving tourism (they do that in Italy and it is really cool!) So why not pair a stay at an overwater resort with some wellness or a checkup, or a respite and recovery stay after a surgery at a nearby hospital or free-standing surgery or health clinic?  You could also just unplug and detox if you are feeling a little burnout from work. It’s an excellent wellness retreat without psychotherapy or anxiolytic / anti-depression medications. Another great indication is for those with Vitamin-D deficiencies. Promise yourself you will only use your iPad for taking pictures and making the folks back home jealous!

How much will it cost?

When the first thing to consider is the cost. To find your destination, you’ll need to choose from the most comprehensive list I’ve found at  I found that many of them were priced in the USD $1000 + per night range. That’s the room cost. Then there’s tax, resort fees and food and beverage and/or spa costs. But that’s not the only price range out there. You can travel a shorter distance to the Caribbean and find overwater resorts for a lot less money with healthcare services nearby that are good enough for a checkup, a consultation, and minor procedures. Throughout the world, many of the overwater resort destinations are simply not prepared for surgical tourism, but a consultation, second opinion or a checkup is easy-peasy and a great way to relax and save time running around to get all the component parts of your checkup scheduled without running all over town for days. I’ve also seen rates as low as the $150-$350 range per night.  The options are as varied as you like both in cost and amenities.

An executive checkup in the USA can easily cost $4500 to as much as $30,000 for a branded executive checkup program at one of the big brand health centers in the USA. Can you pay for the medically necessary health services (other than plastic surgery, spa or experimental treatments) on your trip with your HSA account? Yes. Look up what you want to buy in the IRS Publication 502 (IRC213D) to learn more. If you are a dialysis patient, there may not be adequate nearby health facilities to get your dialysis done on the schedule you require.  Ask the clinic or hospital for an all inclusive medical package price for the services you need. Don’t be surprised when many of them tack on a “gotcha” foreigner surcharge. You won’t see it on your bill, but it is embedded. Sometimes this can be as high as 40% more than the rate for the same services for locals.

Airfares tend to run on a formula for airfares that is USD $50 + 0.11 per mile for economy, and approximately $50 + $1.10 per mile for business class, per person. Buy tickets about 54-72 days in advance for best fares.

Should I stay or should I go?

For American citizens, my recommendation is to check out Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Honduras, Belize, Cuba, Turks and Caicos, St Lucia, Bermuda (coming in 2017), and even Orlando’s Disney Polynesian Villas and Bungalows where you can pair services with Celebration Hospital and many other healthcare facilities in the Orlando/Lake Buena Vista area.  If you are seeking a destination hospital or health center in these countries, we can recommend those healthcare facilities who are our clients or those we’ve inspected and approved. Most medical tourism destination experiences seem to range in the 1800-2000 km radius from the person’s home airport.

The majority of these overwater resorts and bungalows (also called water villas) tend to be in the South Pacific (Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahiti, and also in Maldives. Other destinations include, but aren’t limited to: Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Philippines. Malaysia won awards for medical tourism services in 2015, and we’ve seen amazing health facilities in that country as well as Thailand and the Philippines. One of the most eminent stem cell researchers, (Dr Sam Bernal) is at Medical City in the Philippines at their regenerative medicine center.

If you visit in low season, you can find deals that are up to 40% off rack rates.  Many of the overwater resorts have island rooms so you could do the overwater room for a few nights and then stay on the resort’s island rooms for the remainder of your stay. Also, by law, the resorts on Maldives are on a private island, so assume that there will not be a clinic immediately adjacent. Malaysia tends to have excellent prices on the overwater resorts and an abundance of wonderful medical tourism health facilities all over the country.

 If you are thinking about swimming and diving, you need to consider what, if any medical procedures you may be planning, as you can’t immerse new stitches. Also if you endured a really long flight to travel to your destination, you may wish to get tested to ensure you don’t have any hidden blood clots brewing that could develop a deep venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolus. a quick D-dimer test (a blood test) can give an indication if there’s cause for concern.

All inclusives

Generally, pretty much all the site-based activities are included at all overwater resorts, so it’s pretty much food and drinks (including alcohol) that are part of all-inclusive. And it’s not surprising that alcohol tends to be quite expensive (as does food) at these resorts, so all-inclusive is best for drinkers. Otherwise, you are subsidizing big drinkers if you don’t consume much alcohol.  If you’ve had a medical procedure and are taking pain medications, keep in mind that you probably shouldn’t plan on drinking much alcohol. This may influence your choice of all inclusive or a la carte.

If you are looking for a place with nightlife and entertainment then you’ll want to book at one of the larger places like Meeru Island, as they have multiple bars and night time activities. Some of the smaller resorts have nothing beyond the dinner service and a small bar.

For medical tourism health providers

Combining an interesting experience differentiates your offer from would be competitors who believe that medical tourism is all about selling excess capacity (leftovers) in hospital beds and surgery bookings in the operating theatre. Why not find out which overwater resorts and water villas are within driving distance and approach them for accommodation pairings that offer the active persona target market something different. These upscale options are sure to attract a distinct targeted micro-audience that want an experience instead of an appointment. Include a voucher for transfers between the resort and the hospital, and if close enough, include a nurse visit or two to check on post-operative wound care. Also offer the resort a call-out response for medical attention on site if necessary. Creating medical tourism product offerings is limited solely by your imagination for differentiation and the local value chain options you can include without lots of complexity.  If you feel you may benefit from a little assistance to put the first one together or to help with strategy and implementation, call me. (+1.303.823.4662) or email me and let’s chat about it.


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