While Barbados has not yet developed a very structured health and wellness tourism product, its health care sector has the infrastructure, facilities, skill and knowledge base to provide services comparable to those in other developed countries.
This was disclosed today by Minister of Health, Dr. David Estwick, as he addressed the opening of the Strategy Session on Health and Wellness Tourism, organised by the Caribbean Export Development Agency, at the Accra Beach Hotel.
Minister Estwick noted that the island did not only boast of a thriving primary care sector, but also advanced secondary care which included specialist services such as in-vitro fertilisation. He said: “This specialist area has high investment potential and has been listed in Barbados’ draft offer as a service to be traded with other World Trade Organisation members.”
Two institutions in the health sector were highlighted by the Minister: the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and the Barbados Drug Service (BDS). Of the QEH, Dr. Estwick noted that the teaching hospital affiliated to the UWI was a referral centre for persons from the Eastern Caribbean.
“It is the only secondary and tertiary care facility in Barbados providing services for residents and visitors alike,” he said.
With respect to the BDS, he noted that it had been recognised at the global level through its designation as a PAHO/WHO collaborating centre for drug supply management and he explained: “In this capacity, the BDS has been involved in providing technical assistance to other regional countries in the area of formulary review and development, drug inspection and drug supply management.”
Minister Estwick further substantiated the point on Barbados’ potential to be a health and wellness tourism destination, by noting that the 2008 Annual Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report had stated that the country had the most attractive ‘environments in travel and tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean’.
He added: “We received high marks for creating the right climate for tourism development with an overall global ranking of 29th in the world. We, therefore, have an opportunity to create a niche in the health and wellness tourism market.
“Though not able to rival countries such as Argentina and India, our combination of costs, quality of services and being an English-speaking location gives us an edge over many of our competitors. In addition, Barbados offers an attractive destination that is enjoyable for a medical holiday.”
The Health Minister concluded by noting that in the pursuit of a health tourism strategy, Government’s policy would place attention on improving equity for Barbadians, improving quality across all institutions as well as giving consideration to the types of services to be delivered.