Tue | Nov 30, 2021

Jampro pitches medical tourism prospects

Published:Sunday | May 9, 2021 | 12:10 AM

Jampro, the marketing arm of the Jamaican Government, is facilitating three medical tourism projects that will mean tens of billions in new investments were they to come to fruition.

The projects, designated for the parishes of Portland, St Andrew, and St James, require financing, the agency said at a webinar it hosted regarding prospects for the subsector.

The global tourism market generates some US$3 trillion a year. Jamaica’s tourism earnings pre-COVID topped US$3 billion annually, but information regarding the flows contributed by medical tourists was not immediately available.

Still, Jampro President Diane Edwards was bullish about the prospects.

“There are things happening in the space,” she said.

An investment opportunity guide done for Jampro by PwC several years ago, which quoted data up to 2017, indicated that medical tourism was around a US$45 billion to US$72 billion business, globally, with the potential to grow 15-25 per cent per annum.

In Jamaica’s case, the document estimated the country could earn 10 times more than traditional tourism, per visitor spend - at US$1,300 on average compared to the US$113 daily spend that prevailed for traditional tourists then.

Webinar participant Dr Jan Hochtritt, a plastic surgeon, said that about 40 per cent of his patients are from overseas, and of that figure, most are from the diaspora. Dr Ernest Madu, chairman and founder of The Heart Institute of the Caribbean, recommended that investors attract talent from countries that are world leaders in medical tourism.

“We have an opportunity to build our own internal capacity, and then in 25 years, we will be a net exporter of medical-tourism services,” Madu said.

The largest of the three projects, the Grande Ridge Medical City, to be developed in Montego Bay by Bioprist founder Dr Guna Muppuri, will require US$315 million, or about $48 billion in local currency, to execute. The complex, spanning 65 acres, is designed to incorporate a certified hospital with 300 beds, a college of medicine, 120-room student living, offices, banks, retail and commercial warehousing, BPO clusters, villas, and apartments.

Jampro manager with responsibility for tourism Carol Straw said the complex is proposed as a special economic zone development that would be held by Ridge Special Economic Zone Holding Limited, an independent subsidiary of the Bioprist Group.

Muppuri says he has already secured more than $1 billion of financing for his medical city, and work on the project is under way.

“The banks and capital markets are very much in favour of this industry. They have already given us $1.1 billion to invest in these projects, and we are well at an advanced stage. As we keep moving our targets, then more money will flow,” said Muppuri in the webinar.

The developers of the other two projects were not identified.

The development proposed for Portland, called ‘Irie by the Sea’ and costing US$8.9 million, would offer one- to two-week retreats in a jungle-themed setting. Phase 1 of the project consists of 12 apartments and phase two, 40 units.

The investor is seeking investors and land, Straw said.

The third project, called ‘Wa Rehab’ in St Andrew, would offer exclusive villa accommodations with spa and gym amenities close to the Hollywell National Park in the Blue Mountains.

“The whole idea is to have a confidential setting because they are targeting high-end celebrities,” said Straw without disclosing details of the cost of the project or the name of the developer.