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  • Thu, 21 Feb 2013 19:01:48 -0800
We would like to share a recent article from the SD Union-Tribune about Medical Tourism in Baja Mexico.

For decades, U.S. residents have crossed the border into Mexico in search of cheap dentistry, alternative health care and pharmacies providing easy access to prescription drugs.

Now, health providers in Tijuana say they have much more to offer in the way of sophisticated medical office procedures and hospital care, and have created business groups aimed at getting that word out to U.S. consumers.

“In the past, the focus was on low cost. But in the last five years, doctors have been offering more complex treatments, hiring more bilingual personnel and doing more professional marketing,” said Flavio Olivieri, executive director of the Tijuana Industrial and Economic Development Corp. and cofounder of the Tijuana Medical Tourism Association.
The biggest draw still is low cost, medical tourism experts said, with fees for services such as dentistry, laser eye surgery, plastic surgery, cancer treatment and bariatric weight-loss procedures generally running 40 percent to 70 percent lower than in the U.S. Dental implants that may cost $2,800 north of the border can be as low as $800 in Mexico, while a $50,000 hip replacement in the U.S. could run $13,000 down south.

Olivieri said the marketing campaign is critical in helping Tijuana recover from a drastic drop in cross-border visitors. Long waits into and out of Mexico have traditionally been a problem, but crossings plunged in 2008 with the recession and a surge in drug-related violence in the Tijuana region, followed in 2009 by travel warnings when the H1N1 flu proved deadly in central Mexico.

“The market shrank overnight,” said Olivieri, a speaker on medical tourism Monday at Tijuana Innovadora, a two-week, $5 million conference aimed at boosting the international profile and economic clout of one of Mexico’s largest metropolitan areas.

Today, the flu is a vague memory and perception of Tijuana as a violent city held hostage by warring drug gangs is beginning to wane. Homicides dropped from a high of 844 killings in 2008 to 664 in 2009 and 638 as of last week, in part because of a coordinated crackdown by military and civilian authorities.

According to the Baja California Secretary of Tourism, about 250,000 people a month visit Tijuana for health products and medical services, most of them Californians.

Roughly 60 percent are Hispanics living in the U.S. The next largest group is people seeking alternative medical treatments, followed by “Anglo middle-income Americans” wanting high-quality yet low-cost care.

The Baja tourism office, the Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau, and new medical tourism business groups in Tijuana, Mexicali, Rosarito Beach and Ensenada are working on promotional strategies.

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