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Future Wellness Tourism Industry Preparing Hospitality Students

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Hospitality students from Lerner Business & Economics and Health Sciences at the University of Delaware attended a one-day seminar on Hotels Bridging Healthcare & Wellness Tourism, at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, in Switzerland, which offers a unique and seamless synergy of healthcare and luxury.

The seminar, sponsored by Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management’s study abroad program and directed by HRIM professors Fred DeMicco and Ali Poorani, featured speakers including Peter Tschirky, CEO of Grand Resort Bad Ragaz Wellness and Medical Health Center, and Peter Kappert, president, The Swiss Leading Hospitals.

Student Participants Reported:

Peter Tschirky, CEO of Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, believes the “hospital” concept — a combination of the words hotel and hospital — will grow in the future. “Prevention is less expensive than treatment,” he said. Certain insurance companies are even starting to cover stays at these luxury wellness retreats.

Yet, Tschirky also claimed “that good is not good enough anymore” when it comes to competition. The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz Wellness and Medical Health Center strives to be on the industry forefront and remains steadfast to its four core values – or 4 Steps to Excellence — respect, progress, passion and sustainability.

“Our graduates will be managing directors and general managers of these blended hospitality and wellness ‘campuses’ – as medical tourism/travel continues to expand across the globe,” said Fred DeMicco, a professor at the University of Delaware.

“Our prediction is that health and medical tourism will mature even faster than in the three decades that culminated in the rise of the hotel industry, mainly due to today’s sophistication in operations, system design, brand strategies, technology, and the like,” said Ali Poorani. “This will require expertise and working seamlessly together.”

The “hospital” concept — a combination of the words hotel and hospital — will only grow in the future.

A case-in-point, Switzerland has been able to engineer The Swiss Leading Hospitals, one of the top health clusters in the world, bringing more than 27 influential hospitals, clinics, intermediaries and resorts to create synergy between top hospitals and quality infrastructure that serves the needs of medical travelers to Switzerland.

Students at the seminar had the opportunity to learn from Peter Kappert, president of The Swiss Leading hospitals. Here is a synopsis of what a team of students reported:

While discussing the trend of H2H, Mr. Kappert said, “it could be easier here [Switzerland] because a smaller system means more personalized and a better position to have those important details.”

This is why Switzerland is often the first choice for the treatment of serious diseases. The Swiss hold high standards for themselves, getting the job done efficiently and extremely effectively which leads to their very prestigious reputation.

There is a great need for incorporating the expertise of hospitality professionals to medical tourism. As Kappert said, “The Swiss Leading Hospitals coordinates services, such as hotel accommodations, visas, family matters, and even entertainment.”

These are qualities that hospitality students are prepared to offer.

“There is a need for more hospital management schools/ majors,” said Kappert, who explained the need for hospital managers is high and when filled will help improve the field and quality of service in these establishments.

Some other aspects of expanding medical tourism and hospitality in Switzerland are the multitude of benefits the country will provide as hospitality leader. For example, not only can Swiss resorts offer medical treatments, they offer high professionalism, room accommodations and advice with excursions. In addition, they can help provide interpreters for translating. Patients will be able to experience the beauty of Switzerland, its scenic nature and well-developed facilities.

Ryan Poorani, project manager at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California, said years of experience at the Ritz Carlton Hotels had provided him with the knowledge and skills to manage the expectations of key stakeholders, patients, and their families, while enlivening the service standards established by his employer to create lasting memories.

Kappert’s assessment is on target concerning many other destinations around the world, bearing in mind that creating an effective cluster requires hard work, efforts in listening to one another, acknowledging the big picture, community engagement, and cultural change. Leading universities around the world could create pathways toward this milestone, which is evident in the message from a team of students:

This does not necessarily mean that hospitality students need to be deeply informed about the medical field, but they should learn how the medical and hospitality fields relate and what opportunities they have when combined. Clinical and hospital manager are the main positions available for graduates.

If hotels bridging healthcare continue to grow, there will be a need for qualified hospitality graduates. Therefore, adding a medical tourism aspect to the hospitality curriculum would be a good investment.

Dr. DeMicco and Dr. Poorani are engaged in research, curriculum development at the University of Delaware and consulting activities that enhance medical delivery in highly recognized health and medical destinations.

About the Authors

Dr. Ali A. Poorani is director of Hospitality Associates for Research & Training and associate professor of hospitality leadership and entrepreneurship at the Lerner College of Business & Economics, at the University of Delaware.

Ryan Poorani is project manger at Keck Medical Center at the University of Southern California. He has also developed an outlet-wide training program for new employees to foster buy-in and improve new-employee satisfaction at the Ritz- Carton Hotel Company, in Los Angeles.

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