State medical tourism proposal

Senate health policy chairman Aaron Bean wants to pitch Florida as a place for people to go for medical care. Bean has filed a proposal (SB 178) that includes creating a programme to market Florida as a health care destination. The bill will be considered during the 2016 legislative session.

The plan is to create a programme under Enterprise Florida, a public-private agency that seeks to boost economic development.

Florida is on track to break tourist visitor number records for a fifth consecutive year. Visit Florida estimates that 54.1 million travellers made their way to the state during the first half of this year. That is a 6% increase from 2014, when a total annual record 97.3 million people travelled to Florida. If the second half of this year meets projections, 2015 will mark the first year of more than 100 million visitors.

Visit Florida has a $210 million budget, with $74 million coming from the state and the remainder coming from private sector investments.

The original $5 million that the Florida Legislature earmarked to promote medical tourism has been freed up for general marketing, rather than specific medical tourism promotion. This is why Bean wants specific funds and a special body to promote local medical tourism.

Visit Florida is mindful that the marketing of tourism is more than just a numbers game, so has a new five-year strategic plan to attract more visitors during the off season, drive more visitors to off-the-beaten-path places and targeting visitors such as international travellers likely to spend the most money.