A medical travel degree curriculum that also offers travel agent certification courses is being considered by Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
The curriculum, still in the early-discussion stage, would emphasize the travel marketing and accommodations aspects of medical travel. Practical training through internships would be central to the program, Mike Hampton, dean of the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, told Travel Market Report.
The Chaplin School aims to provide its global students with the tools to succeed in a global economy, Hampton said. As the faculty assessed emerging opportunities for growth in the global travel industry, “medical tourism kept popping up on the radar screen.”
The medical travel niche is already big in Latin America, where Florida International University has strong ties and a large student base.
Travel professional certifications
Certification programs for travel professionals would probably encompass seminars and forums at the school’s Miami campus and possibly via distance learning, according to Hampton.
The degree curriculum will incorporate both academic and practical education and skills, in keeping with the Chaplin School’s goal of providing students with jobs in the travel industry before they graduate.
Internships at hospitals and with medical travel facilitators, destination marketing organizations and other institutions involved in medical travel will be a big part of the curriculum. Internships would provide the same level of training that new hires receive.
The Chaplin School is already exploring internship possibilities with Baptist Health in South Florida, which is aligned with FIU’s college of medicine.
Internships at travel agencies and corporate travel management firms are also a possibility, Hampton said.
The school also will leverage ties to Canyon Ranch to develop internships for students focusing on the health and wellness aspects of medical travel. Canyon Ranch operates destination spas, hotels and communities.
DMO talent source
The Chaplin School aims to become the talent source for DMOs that need staff in medical tourism marketing and management, according to Hampton. He noted that the Greater Miami CVB has already appointed a person to head up its medical tourism marketing efforts.
To frame the curriculum, the school is working with FIU’s medical and nursing schools, as well as with Miami’s Baptist Health, which serves a sizable number of medical travelers from Latin America; the Medical Travel Association, and other groups, Hampton said.
Impact of retirement communities
Hampton said the school expects medical travel to grow internationally as growing numbers of baby boomers retire. The growth of retirement communities in the U.S. and globally and increasing interest in health and wellness travel will also fuel the growth, he said.
“As baby boomers move out of the workforce, that market is almost in an explosive state and will be for a while,” Hampton said.
Retirement communities, especially in Florida, Arizona and California, are driving tourism growth as family and friends visit retirees, and that represents an opportunity, he said.
Grandpa’s hip surgery
“One of the main reasons people travel to Florida is because they are going to visit friends and family.”
“Add the medical tourism component, and it compounds that growth,” he said, noting that “grandpa’s hip surgery” is an opportunity for family to visit him and vacation in Florida at the same time.
For more on education programs in medical travel, please see:
Former Agent, Now Health Exec, Develops Med Travel Training for Agents, March 17, 2011;
New Online Training for Agents Covers the ABCs of Medical Travel, March 10, 2011;
Medical Travel: Definitions and Agent Resources, Oct. 28, 2010