Adventure tourism and ecotourism continue to dominate as the country’s main incomes. However, Medical tourism took center stage, mainly after the pandemic.
Costa Rica is one of the top five countries with the highest number of visits by Americans seeking medical treatment. Data from the Central Bank of Costa Rica reveals that in 2019, medical tourism generated US$465 million.
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Regarding the most sought-after services, dental care is found with 42%, other surgeries in areas such as orthopedics, bariatric, cardiovascular, ophthalmology, oncology with 22%, preventive medicine (16%), plastic surgery and aesthetics (10%) and other medical expenses for pharmacy, rehabilitation, audiology, dermatology, physiotherapy at 10%.
The revenue figure generated by medical tourism is US$56 million in the first two quarters of the year. Currently, travel for health reasons accounts for 13.4% of all visits to the country, according to data from the Tourism Satellite Account of the Central Bank of Costa Rica (BCCR).
According to data from the Costa Rican Health Chamber, more than 80% of visitors come from the United States and 10% from Canada. However, they are also increasingly reaching tourists from Central American and Caribbean countries.
Massimo Manzi, executive director of the Costa Rican Chamber of Health, said a greater recovery is expected during 2023:
“Attracting international patients is an economic activity which, since the 1970s, has generated significant foreign exchange earnings for the country. These revenues benefit a broad value chain that includes not only hospitals and clinics, but also airlines, hotels, restaurants, transport companies, tours, wellness activities and crafts” , Manzi said.
However, the country could increase the benefits of medical tourism through public policies that support initiatives already led by the health sector. “In this regard, we see very favorably the legislative initiative that is dealt with in file 21,140 “Law for the promotion and development of health tourism services in Costa Rica” which, thanks to the formation of an inter-institutional commission , could contribute precisely to the generation of this public policy so necessary for this economic activity to develop at levels closer to its potential”, commented Manzi.
Developing coordinated initiatives with health, tourism, foreign trade and economic authorities would allow the country to compete on equal terms with nations that for many years have made health tourism one of the main pillars of the tourism development policy.