AT the beginning of the 20th century, the idea of spending a part of the winter in places with warmer climates began to gain in popularity among Americans and Canadians, more for wellness than for health care.
Now, however, the future of tourism in recovering from the novel coronavirus pandemic, we believe, will depend more on the state of public health, notably the effective execution of the vaccine campaign, than anything else.
It is also safe to assume, going into the immediate future, that tourists will have a heightened awareness of the state of health and the availability of health care in choosing destinations.
The real and/or perceived state of public health and the risk of exposure to infectious diseases are, of course, not new considerations, especially in the case of persistent and prevalent diseases such as malaria and yellow fever.
Travel advisories are routinely issued when there is a national or regional epidemic — spreading at a rate of over 15 per 100,00 for more than two weeks — such as Ebola and SARs.
Throughout history, people have travelled in search of medical treatment and, in more modern times, wellness. The demand for wellness has grown rapidly, especially among the so-called baby boomers. What is widely accepted is that travel itself promotes good health because it reduces stress-related illnesses.
One of the motivations for travelling and going on sea cruises to the tropics was the health benefits of a warm climate, exposure to the sun, mineral spas and 'island breeze'. This was very much the case for Jamaica.
Jamaica's modern health care system, both public and private, should be reassuring to visitors. Together they provide a full range of medical treatments through a network of hospitals and clinics. The medical profession in Jamaica has a good reputation, enhanced internationally by the repute of Jamaican doctors and nurses, particularly in the US, Britain, and Canada.
The quality of the medical professionals is due in large part to the fact that since 1948 there has been a medical school at the world-ranked The University of the West Indies in Jamaica, training medical doctors, dentists, and nurses.
There are several organisations that offer medical services, most being locally owned, private medical facilities catering to locals and foreigners and providing a wide range of general and specialised treatments – from heart surgery to stem cell treatment.
Many of these facilities have international accreditation. A variety of medical facilities have also been established by Jamaicans living abroad, in many instances by medical practitioners and, in several cases, in partnership with local medical practitioners.
Additionally, there are some privately owned facilities operated by foreign firms, for example, Hospiten, owned by a Spanish company and catering to several Spanish-owned hotels in the main tourist areas around Montego Bay, St James.
The credible conclusion is that looking to the future, it is possible for Jamaica to develop as a serious health and wellness tourism destination.