Bespoke, designer health travel is on the rise

Contemporary health tourism is being regarded – and experienced – as an attractive lifestyle choice. Experts say industry is listening and delivering on growing market demand.

The One&Only Le Saint Géran reopened in Mauritius in December 2017 after a multimillion-dollar renovation. ‘She’s back – bigger and better,’ says One&Only Le Saint Géran general manager Charles de Foucault. The iconic property has a contemporary new look, coaxing more light and space from the shell of the well-loved structure, which includes an award-winning spa. Indoor and outdoor fitness programmes as well as beauty, grooming and wellbeing are the major focus points, and the best news is that Harmonia by Francesc Miralles is back.

It’s about seeking solutions for the long-term prevention of disease rather than a temporary quick fix. Depending on your location, and your zest and capacity for travel, Austria’s Vivamayr health resort is one of the best in the world if you’re looking for a customised organic diet, combined with health diagnostics and applied kinesiology.

London-based consultant orthopaedic surgeon Simon Moyes is a ‘massive fan’ of Vivamayr. ‘I lost 5kg in a week there – and I’ve kept the weight off since. They are very good about teaching you how to eat, when to eat, what to eat – and point you towards an alkaline diet.’

Bespoke, designer health travel is on the rise
Clinique La Prairie in Montreux, Switzerland

Switzerland’s Clinique La Prairie is another top destination, says Constantine Constantinides of ‘think and do tank’ healthCare Cybernetics. ‘Conventional medical tourism that mostly relied on those seeking medical care at a lower cost has had its day. Very simply, health tourism is defined as health-related services involving some travel. Every tourist is potentially a health tourist.’

The business of spa travel

Medical tourism (travel for surgical procedures and medical treatments abroad) is one of eight health tourism segments, and the terms must not be used interchangeably, largely for economic reasons. Constantinides says it dawned on him early on that it is a ‘dumb move’ for destinations to bet exclusively on just this one segment of health tourism. He’s not alone.

In February 2017, the Global Healthcare Travel Council unanimously voted in favour of the eight-segment approach to health tourism in what has become known as the Amman Declaration. Health Tourism 8 (ht8) encompasses medical, dental, spa, wellness, culinary, sports, accessible and assisted residential categories, designed to expand the industry and create more business for all. Ht8 is essentially an insurance policy for destinations. Should demand in one of the segments decline (even temporarily) the other seven will sustain them.

Bespoke, designer health travel is on the rise
The One&Only Le Saint Géran, Mauritius
The way forward

While there is no question that the industry can generate sizable turnover for health-related service providers and supporting industries, exactly how much is up for debate. Constantinides says that, without proper measurement tools, none of the attempts to value the industry (amounts running into unsubstantiated billions of dollars) are reliable.

This is because no one is really counting – nor can they – until the proposed Health Tourism Satellite Account (HTSA) devised by healthCare Cybernetics is adopted as the standard ‘accounting system’. Importantly, the HTSA is segment-specific, meaning it facilitates the counting in each of the ht8 segments, including medical tourism.

Health tourism in Africa is set to contribute significantly to the global framework, given the continent’s pioneering role in the medical field, highly-skilled doctors, exceptional medical care and state-of-the-art facilities, and its wide-ranging appeal as a travel destination. South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Mauritius are top choices, with Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana competing with some of the best destinations in the world.

However, Constantinides cautions against the expectation that the same players who brought you the medical tourism ‘boom’ will now bring about the growth and expansion of health tourism. ‘Expect to see fresh faces – with fresh insight, money and vision – who understand that health tourism should be a lifestyle choice rather than an activity dictated by financial circumstances.’

On the move

In Alicante, Spain, the Sha Wellness Clinic creates programmes for physical-mental wellbeing based on natural therapies and therapeutic nutrition ‘without neglecting the advances in Western medicine’ as regards preventive medicine, genetics and anti-aging. Miralles has worked there and enjoyed its treatments. ‘I wanted to experience it first-hand – they did a great job,’ he says.

If you can get to the Himalayas in India, though, Miralles recommends visiting Ananda to restore balance and harmonise energy. At this luxury ayurvedic retreat guests can benefit from traditional ayurveda, yoga and vedanta (an ancient spiritual philosophy) combined with international wellness experiences, fitness and healthy organic cuisine.

This article by Debbie Hathway originally appeared in Issue 40 of Private Edition.

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