Health Toursim Refugees! International Medical Tourism on the Rise!

28 04 2009

I typically refrain from press release listing and over all press in lieu of informative opinions and industry news. However I’m making an exception as this is relevant to current growth. Enjoy!

images-costa-beach-2Salt Lake City/San Jose, Costa Rica April 2009 – U.S. economics may drive more Americans to pursue healthcare overseas. But the truth is, health tourism refugees have been crossing boarders for both, compulsatory and complimentary medical therapies for years. The ‘little Switzerland’ of Central America, lush and topical, Costa Rica (CR) is leading the charge. The Costa Rican National Competitiveness Council, Minister of Tourism and Minister of Health are working with U.S. partners to put them at the top of the international medical tourism and spa standards list. 

Hotel spas are still resilient, some reporting a 46% growth from the previous year, and investments are increasing for the health tourism sector. Timing is right to launch an official prologue of international spa standards with a new Costa Rican Spa Association, linked with a U.S. partner.  Governmental efforts and international partners will increase medical tourism and the overall GDP. Always a leader in conservation, growth and diplomacy, Costa Rica is a small country with big plans.

Lotus Effects Spa Advisory is in discussions with Competitiveness Council members and the U.S. Day Spa Association (DSA) to head up a beneficial partnership for Costa Rica, and Latin America.  “2009 will be a year for trailblazing in this sector” says Lotus Effects founder, Liz Galloway. “The generosity and fortitude of people we are working with such as, the Day Spa Association founder, Costa Rican competitiveness minister, and local spa advocates, creates a common goal for international spa standard success.”

Areas reviewed will be policies and regulation, safety and hygiene, environmental sustainability and the prioritization of tourism in the sector. “No doubt, the attraction of combining vacation time, with recovery time, is well received by the health ‘refugee’.  The holistic and alternative therapies combined with health tourism and mixed use facilities is also highly attractive to foreign travelers. A fraction of the medical cost for great care, doesn’t hurt either.” States Galloway.

Costa Rica ranks 4th  in the top 10 Americas for attractiveness in the travel and tourism sector, according to the travel and tourism competitiveness report. The Costa Rican council’s immediate goals are to open up opportunity, job generation, and investment, along with the chance for medical tourism. “at least 0.5% of Americans without medical insurance to travel to (CR) to get treatment…. which would mean at least 230,000 patients.’’ Quoted by Jorge Woodbridge Gonzalez, Council of Competitiveness.

Discussions are to aid governmental goals in the spa sector and to work with CR to become the leader in Central American Spa Standards. These US and CR partners will create systems that have comparable standards to the U.S. spas and other international leaders in high standards. Become part of the discussion. 

Lotus Effects Spa Advisory is an advocate for the national and international standards of Costa Rica. Founder Liz Galloway works within Costa Rica on spa and wellness projects, along with working with the government, spas, investors, and spa associations to create standards. Lotus Effects is based in Barcelona, Spain, with representation in the US  and Costa Rica. This is an internationally recognized spa advisory and consultancy focused on partnering creatively to increase, pace, sophistication and profit for spas, resorts and leisure communities.

More references on this;


Medical Tourism Association

Day Spa Association

International Medical Spa Association

Medicaview International

Lotus Effects


Joint Commission International


Is “Luxury” Taboo? Purposeful Leisure Companies Are New Trendsetters

24 04 2009


Nothing is Taboo

Nothing is Taboo

Spas and resorts are paying attention to the economic trends at the luxury level. The tell – tell signs of  expansion or retraction here can be like the canary in the mine. Most spa trends, casino and hotel spas being an example, show upward growth. However, lately, many spa and hospitality planners are more apt to err on the conservative side. When it comes to gifting, purchasing and luxury related healing therapies, spa and hospitality budgets are shrinking. Especially with corporate goodies, which were extravagant when bookings were at a high in fat times.    


Will luxury goods, services and high end destinations take a bigger hit in 2009?  Will it be taboo to partake of luxury services and products? Or can we have faith that spas and leisure are here to stay and amid the slowdown people will evolve to create their own ‘purposeful leisure’ options? More people are combining  pampering, getaways, and other leisure time with a ‘give back’ mentality that changes leisure into a purpose driven result. Guilt free. The growing trend in ‘Volun-Tourism’, showcases that. Choices are endless with packages to volunteer  in a Cambodian orphanage to cleaning up international reefs.  Leisure with a purpose seems to be a newly revived social trend that spa and hospitality venues can tap into for wealth building.  Creating activities and packages with this theme, has already increased the revenue of trendsetters and marketing innovators.   


Luxury Travel Vacation

Luxury Travel Vacation

Take a look at charity driven travel as told in  Forbes Traveller  by author Rebecca Ruiz. “Buying travel packages or event tickets through charity auctions is not a new trend, but it can be a useful tool for conscientious travelers who like the idea of combining a vacation with altruism. Once aware of the option, says Founder and CEO Kelly Fiore, “Why would you do it a different way?”.  In short, people purchase items, services and travel from a charity related site or event. The win – win is the client receives great items, and the charity gains useful funds. A  desire for guilt free indulgences, travel, luxury and products, can be developed into a grand PR opportunity for your spa or leisure location. 

 Ok,  some of you may be saying ANY of YOUR leisure time IS purposeful.  This concept is nothing new. Your right.  It’s relative to your perception. In business perception is imperative to growing. With media continuing to highlight the downturn, and overindulgence frowned upon, business solutions may not be so obvious. Do remember, one item  that will never be overindulgent or taboo, is excellence in client service.  Time to expand your perception.

So how do we utilize this purposeful social trend to not just indulge, but to create purpose for ourselves and our spa clients?  Tracking the current trends in luxury travel and purchasing  to get creative, and jump on board with new options would be one way. If you can’t get creative on your own, using media conscious tools or a PR consultant to collaborate on regional to international marketing campaigns could be the difference between  business recognition or obscurity. 



Corporate Luxury Gift

Corporate Luxury Gift


Let’s consider what you need to produce the results your want from your clients. Would you have use for the uber –luxury items in this video.?  If this doesn’t fit your client profile, don’t worry. As with all products and services, stop and ask yourself if this is something your clients can use?

   Your clients – everyday people, professionals, tycoons, and celebrities all have the same capacity to be stressed, just for different reasons. We are in a unique time, and one I believe we can use to forge new positive pathways with staying power.  Statistics show that people continue to use leisure services and spa treatments to decompress. Many spas are still ringing in positive sales quarters, despite some luxury taboos. Industry trend setters continue to keep a close watch on the current economics and client responses within the spa, luxury and leisure industry.  Susies spa blog cites this reponse, “most spas say that bookings are up or holding steady” and “weekend bookings are still at capacity.” While I am sure that these spas have been affected somewhat by the economic downturn, there is resiliency. Why? Another trend in our top 10 – Stressing De-Stress.”  Susie Ellis, SpaFinder.   

 This is a bit of a spoof since most small and medium size spa and leisure companies, won’t be in the market for this type of  luxury. But instead of laughing it off, take the time to understand the entire scope of luxury (comfort), from high brow to low brow. 


Volun-Tourism Globally

Volun-Tourism Globally

Industry resiliency will reflect the client’s desire for value drive, relevant and results oriented, leisure fun. Including, spa, wellness, travel, volun-tourism, and other comfort products. While smaller, weaker brands may suffer the worst, and smaller spas may be hit the hardest. More established spa brands such as Champney’s, and Mandarin Oriental are expected to stay strong through the downturn.  Subsequently, newly  established spa locations and markets will also struggle to stay in the eyes of the consumer and industry marketers. 


 While larger brands can push ever more spending on publicity, smaller competitors will push to do the same, overspending. This may push them out of business.  If you are amid the small to medium size brands, operate as such, and don’t expect that you will have the media budget of a corporate brand. Even in a downturn, people will de-stress, and working with a local brand can be a value judgement for the client.  A revived purposeful leisure trend, enables people to explore new markets, with the ‘give back’ mentality.  Affordable luxury, or should we say well-being, still drives the market. New collaboration and package opportunities for individual businesses are ripe.

Though taboo luxury, has seen declines from the world’s top luxury trade fair in Basel, to  big layoffs at the  Greenbrier Resort , West Virginia, and fashion at the Christian Lacroix show in Paris. It will do no good , not to take a look at the positives. The new trend in leisure with a purpose just may be contributing to human growth as a whole.  No matter what your global positioning is, take a moment to participate in your own purposeful leisure activity. Your effects could be global.

To find our more, or brainstorm on our own purposeful leisure, get in touch with Lotus Effects

It seems spa and leisure trends can go two ways. Even more excessive pampering of the wealthiest clients, or deep discounting in an attempt to save falling sales. The businesses that fall into the gray matter in between may be feeling most of the pinch, with the deep discounters coming in a fast second. Luxury is still alive and well, but many are now taking a more conscientious look at defining that luxury. With societal opposition to opulence, many companies are opting to disengage from using the word luxury, for more relatable words such as, comfort and well being.  This can endear people to their brand, while still allowing them to provide a high level of comfort..