As the industry of medical tourism is on the rise, the availability of recovery resorts or post-operative recovery centers doesn’t seem to be growing at the same rate. This makes the decision on where to go to recover quite difficult for many seeking to venture into new worlds for cheaper, high quality healthcare. We interviewed Jim Follett who revealed to us the major plan Intercontinental Hotel Group has to emerge itself into the medical tourism industry in Latin America.
How did you become aware of Medical Tourism?
Follett: As the Director of Global Sales for IHG Latin America, I travel frequently. During one of my travels, I met 3 different individuals who were traveling to Latin America for various medical procedures. Each of them, expressed their concern regarding having to recover in hotel they are not familiar with. After doing extensive research in the medical tourism segment I realized our brands are ideally positioned to satisfy these international travelers’ needs and concerns.
What made you think that IHG hotels were a good fit for medical tourism for Americans?
Follett: Our brands include InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn ® Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express®, Staybridge Suites®, Candlewood Suites® y Hotel Indigo® all of which have a global reputation for excellent service and standards.
Offering our brands to this market can provide patients/guests a sense of relief since they will know that they will be staying in hotel they are familiar with and which has a brand name they can trust. They’re also comforted by the fact that our hotels offer good service, clean rooms along with many other value-added amenities such as 24 hour room service, fitness center and business center all of which are perfect, when your body, mind and soul are in recovery mode.
Do you think Americans can get quality care equal to or better than here in the US?
Follett: I have toured many facilities throughout the region and found them to be very similar to the hospitals I have visited in the US. The one exception I took note of, was that the nurse to patient ratio in Latin America is 1 to 10 versus 1 to 3 here in the US.
Why did IHG hotels move forward with medical tourism?
Follett: This is still in its test stages, however, we see this as an emerging market that has enormous potential. We will first launch this program in our hotels in Costa Rica, Panama, Monterey Mexico and Sao Paulo, and based on the success in these regions we will continue to expand the program throughout all of Latin America and then perhaps globally.
What kind of services do you plan on offering Americans?
Follett: We are in the process of fine-tuning the program through research. So far, we have found that the 24 hour room service, fitness center and business center are all amenities that patients have identified as something they would like to have in their hotel during their recovery time, so our hotels will most certainly offer that. As well, our hotel staff will provide extra attention to the patients/guests and daily transfers to and from the doctor’s office.
We will also provide special dietary meals, which is most likely part of the doctor’s orders. We anticipate though, that patient/guests’ needs will vary based on their treatment, so we want to be able to develop packages for a wide array of procedures and patients.
What sets IHG apart from other medical tourism companies?
Follett: IHG will be working with the various medical tourism providers to enhance the patient/guests’ experience. This market for us should continue to grow based on referrals from patient/guests’ positive experiences. Ultimately, our goal is to provide the most comfortable setting possible for patient/guests when they are recovering. We also want to create loyal guests of our hotels therefore IHG’s objective include providing more than a phenomenal experience, we want to offer value added services, standards, and amenities.
You are doing something very cutting edge in the Hotel industry, how do you think the hotel industry will view what you are doing?
Follett: IHG has historically been an innovator in the hospitality industry. IHG had the first Internet reservation system and the first guest loyalty program. So, our efforts in moving ahead with this program, is a continuation of that mind-set. We want to continue being the leader in the industry and to be the “first” to do many more things within the industry.
Do you think other hotels will follow suit?
Follett: History usually repeats itself so I’m sure our competitors will develop similar programs.
How are you integrating follow up care after surgery for patients staying in your hotels?
Follett: After patients have their surgery they will typically stay in the hospital for a couple of days. After that, they’re discharged but have to return on a daily basis for follow-up check-ups. We will offer transportation to and from the doctor’s office. We will also make sure that we provide special meals that will cater to the patients’ prescribed dietary needs.
If you could deliver one message to Americans reading this article who wish to go overseas for surgery and may stay at your hotel, what would that be?
Follett: Our renowned brands, our global reputation for excellent service, standards and amenities in addition to our clean facilities, will most certainly fill your needs when you are recovering and may be far away from home. We will make your stay utterly comfortable and as relaxing as possible.
We will take extra measures at making your recovery efforts easy and painless – With this unique program, we look forward to helping you make your decision to have treatments done abroad much easier. And so that we may expand our efforts globally we look forward to hearing your feedback once you are home and recovered.