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Belize Puts Best Foot Forward via Medical Tourism

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If Belize sounds like a tiny nation, just remember the country has a big personality that wants to make medical tourism an essential character trait.

Leading government officials from the Caribbean nation recently met with Medical Tourism Association representatives to discuss packaging health and wellness treatments and procedures with attractive vacation getaways in Belize during a trade show at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center in Florida.

Belizean officials confirmed that the nation just completed a feasibility study to assess strengths from which to build its medical tourism foundation. President Colville Young, governor-general of Belize, said the country has made medical tourism a cornerstone to develop a blueprint for economic prosperity.

“The leaders we met were enthusiastic and determined,” said Gilliam Elliot, marketing outreach coordinator with the Medical Tourism Association. “Belize is a country with tremendous potential with an opportunity to increase its bottom line if they follow through and implement best-practices and strategies that MTA has to offer.”

Nick Ruiz, executive director of the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE), said Belizean officials plan to take part in the 4th Global Ministerial Summit on Medical Tourism, Nov. 3, at Caesar's Palace, in Las Vegas.

Sponsored by the Medical Tourism Association, the summit last year attracted ministers of economy, tourism and health from more than 50 countries as well as trade commissioners, tourism officials, medical and tourism attach's and other VIPs who presented best-practices and case studies while collaborating in the development of medical tourism initiatives.

Proximity to Florida

Erwin Contreas, a Belizean minister of trade and economic development, said Belize is only one of two countries in Central and South America where English is the primary spoken language. That, and its proximity to the United States and Florida, he said, positions Belize to become a player in the medical tourism marketplace.

Outreach efforts of the Medical Tourism Association often plant the seed in nations –like Belize — that spawns growth in the medical tourism industry and stretches the tenets of quality and affordable healthcare beyond traditional domestic and international borders.

Government bodies, hospitals, physicians, insurance companies and patient audiences throughout the world have made collaboration with the Medical Tourism Association common practice in building distinctive and affordable health travel infrastructure that is not only functional and achieving, but sustainable as well.

Through participation at conventions, conferences and like gatherings in the United States and around the globe, the Medical Tourism Association supports and encourages consumer awareness of international healthcare options and promotes initiatives including its Health & Wellness Destination Guides, Medical Tourism Magazine, annual World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress, numerous partnership and networking activities, online education and certification programs, and No. 1 rated Internet portal for healthcare consumers, , among others.

Unbridled Destination

Hardly a pleasure-traveler who has put a foot in the sand to touch the Caribbean Sea can forget the panoramic views that paint lush tropical forests and Maya Mountains with idyllic Belizean coastlines. Nestled between Mexico and Guatemala on the northeastern coast of Central America, Belize is rife with optimism to be known as more than a vacation paradise.

Backed by the government, Belize officials are working under the auspices of the Medical Tourism Association to outline plans that already include upgrades to existing hospitals and clinics that meet accredited international standards and incentives designed to attract top medical specialists from the United States and around the world.

Savvy travel consumers and keen tourism providers recognize the indigenous beauty that Belize has to offer, said Renee-Marie Stephano, president and co-founder of the Medical Tourism Association. The challenge then becomes for collaborative-minded interests like the Medical Tourism Association and Belizean authorities — to match what is natural to that what must be built, advanced and sustained as a benefit to both patients around the world and the Belize economy. Then the world will know and appreciate Belize for what it is and what it can be, much more than ancient marvels, sand and sun.

High Hopes

Belizean officials understand there is a long way to go before medical tourism will attract the numbers that they predict. Right now, none of that matters. Belizeans have high hopes. Perhaps, lofty goals and rigorous challenges are part of the national makeup.

After all, earlier this month, Belize gained worldwide exposure and left an indelible impression for integrity on fans when its national soccer team a rag-tag group of amateurs that included a few policemen, a teacher, and two tour guides — lost to a more experienced and polished team from the United States in the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament.

“We’re just trying our best to compete at this level,” said coach Ian Mork, an American who noted that his players turned down bribes, yet held barbecues and telethons to come up with expenses for the tournament. I was really proud of the players. They did the right thing.”

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