Go South for Sun, Surf, and Surgery
Tijuana rolls out the red carpet for medical tourists, and San Diego could be in a position to reap some of the benefits
(page 2 of 2)
Codet makes special accommodations for medical tourists from across the border, such as providing bilingual staff, a free shuttle bus to San Diego, and package deals with Tijuana hotels and restaurants. Luquín says the clinic is ramping up its efforts to attract more patients from the U.S. through Internet advertising and Facebook.
It helps that patients like Byrne give Dr. Chayet high marks. “It was a great experience overall,” Byrne says. “The staff and doctors are very well trained and competent; the facility is modern and up to date.”
In addition to renting a room in San Diego, Byrne also paid for attraction tickets and ate out at restaurants. In all he spent about $2,700 on this trip, beyond the cost of the medical procedure itself—almost all of that in San Diego.
It’s these additional travel dollars that have the Baja California Tourism Office rolling out the red carpet. Dr. Adrián Murillo, the Baja California Medical Tourism representative, says the city of Tijuana welcomes medical tourists with bilingual staff, free shuttle buses, package deals with local hotels and restaurants, and even a special Fast Pass to the SENTRI lane at the border, allowing them to skip to the front of the line when returning to the U.S.
Numbers have been steadily increasing since 2010, and investors are spending big money all over Baja California. For example, the 119-bed private Hospital Angeles in Tijuana’s Zona Rio focused on medical tourists when it opened in 2004, with private rooms, a medical fitness center, an auditorium, and gardens. It now sees about 100 to 150 patients from the U.S. per month, mostly seeking weight-loss surgeries as well as some orthopedic, neurological, and cardiac procedures, often offered at as low as one-tenth the price in America. The hospital even formed its own company to offer travel, accommodations, and other services to foreign patients.
Murillo says last year Baja California took in more than $67 million, of which Tijuana saw $46 million, exclusively from medical services, but he calculates that the total, including “indirect earnings,” was $86 million in 2010 and $89 million in 2011. Tijuana plans to keep those numbers growing. “Presently, Tijuana has an objective: The U.S. and Canadian markets,” Murillo says. “We plan to promote the certification of medical services and continuous improvement in the quality of services, as well as the many other tourist attractions that Baja California has to offer, making not only Tijuana but Baja California a full experience.”