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Barbados And Medical Tourism: A Perfect Match
By Leslie T. Gittens
Barbados has had quite an intriguing history as it relates to persons traveling to its shores for medical reasons. In fact, none other than George Washington himself, the first president of the United States of America, ventured on his only trip abroad to Barbados in 1751 in hope of curing his tuberculosis with the help of the island’s sublime climate. The trip made a profound impact on the then young Washington and in his words he was “perfectly ravished” by the serenity and beauty of the island. Over the years Barbados has built upon the appeal of its natural climate, and together with its sound infrastructure and business friendly environment makes the jurisdiction an ideal destination for not only leisure tourism but medical tourism investment.
The business of medical tourism sees thousands of patients travel annually to various destinations around the world such as Europe, Asia, South America and the Caribbean to undergo various medical procedures. Some travel for treatment they cannot access at home, others to escape lengthy waiting lists for public health care or to access lower costs for various procedures. The global medical tourism industry was valued at approximately US $36.9 billion in 2018 according to Grand View Research, and is expected to grow at over 20 percent for the next decade. Each year, Poland and Croatia receive thousands of visitors from across Europe and further abroad, visiting hospitals which specialize in orthopedic surgeries. The same happens in India for cardiology, Brazil for cosmetic surgery, Costa Rica for dentistry and Barbados for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to name a few of the popular destinations for medical treatment. As this industry continues to grow so too will the opportunities for investment.
Barbados Is Attractive For Medical Tourism Investment
Barbados has the right ingredients for a medical tourism hub of excellence. Barbados is known and highly respected as a first class tourism destination and as a mature and well regulated international business center. Close to one million visitors venture to Barbados’ shores each year primarily from the UK, USA and Canada. In the area of medical tourism, Barbados’ name is known as a leading destination for IVF. The Barbados Fertility Centre has been attracting international clientele to its world class facility for almost two decades and it boasts some of the highest global success rates. Making babies in Barbados is good business!
Barbados however offers much more scope for investment in medical tourism in other areas, such as rehabilitation facilities and full medical centers providing a variety of surgical and non-surgical procedures, particularly where the natural salubrious environment can aid with the healing process. Investment in healthcare has been a priority by successive governments to the extent that Barbados is one of the biggest spenders in healthcare per capita in the region. This is an ideal platform for further investment to compliment and benefit from the local environment.
Other factors that make Barbados attractive for medical tourism investment:
- Natural Climate: Barbados is located in the North Atlantic Ocean as the easternmost isle of the Lesser Antilles. Barbados receives approximately 3,000 hours of sunshine each year. The weather is generally warm and sunny with an average daytime high of 85 degrees F. Also, because of Barbados’ geographic location hurricanes rarely affect the island.
- Human Resources: Barbados is well known for its education system and has one of the world’s highest per capita literacy rates. Government subsidized education from primary to university level produces hundreds of tertiary graduates annually, including those in the medical field, resulting in a pool of educated human resources.
- Proximity to Key Source Markets: Barbados’ proximity to both North and South America is ideal. The USA is currently the largest source market for medical tourism services and this together with Barbados’ cultural affinity to the USA bodes well for medical tourism investment.
- Transportation Hub for the Region: Barbados is a transportation hub in the region with several international flights arriving at the Grantley Adams International Airport, including multiple daily flights from London, New York, Miami and Toronto.
- Business Environment and Competitive Taxation: The Barbados business environment is characterized by a transparent stable government, a sound regulatory environment, modern infrastructure and a competitive corporate tax regime. Corporation tax in Barbados is levied as follows:
With healthcare costs in North America and some parts of Europe continuing to rise, so too is the interest in medical travel. Patients are crossing borders in search of quality, affordable, timely and effective healthcare. This presents potential investment opportunities in locales that lend themselves to being quality medical tourism destinations. Barbados is undoubtedly one such destination. With its ideal natural climate, reputation as a first class tourism destination, close proximity to big source markets and a burgeoning reputation as a medical tourism player there is no doubt Barbados will continue to attract investment in this industry. From as far back as the days of President Washington, Barbados and medical tourism remain a perfect match.