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Popular Destinations for Aesthetic Tourism

Popular Destinations for Aesthetic Tourism

Wednesday April 18, 2012

While the Brazilian Wax is a familiar term to lovers of the bikini, the Brazilians are also famed for their expertise and innovation in the art of body sculpting. Brazil has been a plastic surgery tourism center for longer than the term “medical tourism” has been around, with the Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgeons requiring all such surgery to be conducted by its members in accredited hospitals. São Paulo’s Albert Einstein Hospital was the first facility outside of the US to be accredited by the Joint Commission International, an international accreditation service based in the United States, and all hospitals in the country are regularly inspected by the National Agency for Sanitary Surveillance to ensure an aseptic environment and that sterilized equipment are in use. São Paulo remains the Western Hemisphere’s unchallenged capital of tummy tucks, buttocks enhancement, and breast augmentation, and Brazil’s aesthetic tourism infrastructure has matured as international trends have been set, featuring some of the world’s most respected plastic surgeons, operating in some of the world’s best hospitals, offering language assistance and comfortable in-hospital accommodations – all this, with the world’s finest beach resorts nearby.

Buenos Aires, Argentina is the other South American leader in the aesthetic tourism trade. Argentina has made public health care a national priority from its very beginnings and has been responsible for many medical advances. So when the Argentine peso was devalued in 2002, Buenos Aires became an attractive destination for medical treatment for foreigners, and plastic surgeons and dentists were quick to see the benefits of creating a regional aesthetic tourism hub in this vibrant city.

The death of the beautiful model, Solange Magnano, at the age of 38 of a pulmonary embolism after cosmetic surgery on her buttocks in Buenos Aires should serve as a vivid reminder of the risks involved in any kind of surgery in any location in the world, as well as of the importance of not cutting corners. Her doctors had used a lower-cost filler that was not well established for the kind of procedure she underwent, thus raising her risk factor and resulting in the tragic outcome where two eight-year-old twins were left motherless.

Farther north, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama have developed their aesthetic tourism industries in a similar way to their dental, where the “get a beach vacation and a new look” marketing to North Americans – combined with short flight times, excellent reputations, and great cost benefits – has been very successful.

Plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures are highly sought-after in Mexican resorts such as Cancun and Puerto Vallarta as well as in locations with large, well-established expat communities such as Guadalajara and San Miguel de Allende. Mexico offers the lowest costs in terms of travel and services along with high quality medical and personal treatment, often combined with an all-inclusive beach vacation for a relaxing recovery.

One specialty that has grown in popularity in Mexico is bariatric surgery for weight loss, which involves procedures that are considered to be elective and are usually not covered by insurance in the US. The most cost savings can be had at bariatric surgery clinics that cater to US citizens in cities near the border, such as Tijuana, Ensenada, Mexicali, Nuevo Laredo, and Monterrey, although the procedures are also offered at many other plastic surgery facilities throughout the country.

Costa Rica is world renowned for its excellent healthcare system. This, plus reduced prices and equally world-renowned eco-tourism opportunities, represents the best that aesthetic tourism has to offer. Clinics in San Jose are at the cutting edge of both medical technology and the modern medical tourism practices that have built the country’s reputation for providing an excellent aesthetic vacation experience.

The US involvement in the Panama Canal has meant that Panama City’s medical establishment has been treating US citizens with US-trained doctors in facilities that meet US standards for some hundred years, now. Known as “the Crossroads of the Americas,” Panama City is a major financial and travel hub, making it another excellent aesthetic vacation destination for people from the US and Canada.

Two other countries in the Americas that stand out for their excellent reputations are Colombia, which has long been a leading center for medical research and innovation, and Cuba, with its world-renowned doctors and medical expertise. But as in all of the world’s major medical tourism destinations, plastic surgery is just one among many specialties on offer, and with their impressive medical infrastructures, they are considered to be much more than “aesthetic tourism destinations.” Such medical specialty supercenters will be the topic of the next article in this series.

I should also address the Dominican Republic. It was an early entrant into the “lipo-tourism” business and remains a popular low-cost aesthetic tourism destination, despite what the US State Department has to say in the “Medical Facilities and Health Information” section of its travel page on this country. Its characterization of the medical facilities is not confidence inspiring. Even more telling is the inclusion of a section on cosmetic surgery amongst the topics of dengue, malaria, and sexually transmitted diseases that points to the CDC’s report on patients who suffered from postoperative infections after undergoing cosmetic surgery in the Dominican Republic back in 2003 – 2004. Yes, it is very close to the US; yes, it is very inexpensive; and yes, many people have had excellent experiences with cosmetic surgery there. However, the risk factors are much higher than in other more reputable aesthetic tourism destinations, due to infrastructure short fallings that are beyond any single doctor’s control.

Jamaica’s Half Moon Bay, on the other hand, is a reputable upscale cosmetic vacation paradise for the well healed who demand nothing less than pampering, privacy, and personal perfection.

In Europe, one could say that Hungary has played the part for Western Europeans that Mexico has played for North Americans, with dental tourism having led the way in making this centrally located country the region’s most well established aesthetic tourism destination. While dental tourism is concentrated at Hungary’s border with Austria, Budapest is the place to find the best private clinics specializing in cosmetic procedures.

Aesthetic tourism centers have sprung up in recent years in EU member nations of Eastern Europe, and in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, as these countries are able to offer lower cost treatments to Western Europeans while being held to a common medical standard.

For those who desire a more exotic experience, particularly for the Irish and the British, Turkey has in recent years developed into a popular low-cost, all-inclusive aesthetic surgery vacation destination.

And for those who want to really get away, South Africa was one of the original aesthetic tourism pioneers, offering “surgical renewal” that comes with your choice of a “rejuvenation holiday,” be it a bush safari, a tour of the country, a visit to the coast, a stay at a golf or a wine estate, or a train journey. These options are for the jet set, rather than for those looking to save a substantial amount of money.

Aesthetic tourism has become a more and more widespread phenomenon, with countries throughout the world setting themselves up as the new location in which to find the new you. Combining the expertise of a variety of arenas, from the hospitality industry to medical tourism organizations to marketing, the globalization of cosmetic travel is expanding to countries from El Salvador and Bolivia to South Korea and Taiwan and beyond.

According to an ISAPS News survey about plastic surgery tourism, establishing credibility by making sure that information about safe facilities and doctors is available through accreditation processes and the cataloging of complaints about unethical doctors and bad outcomes is vital to this expansion. So be sure to take advantage of all the information available from different sources to help guide you to the best location, the best doctor, and the best experience for your new you.

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Tags: medical tourism, South Africa, Colombia, Panama, bariatric surgery, Turkey, aesthetic tourism, breast augmentation, Cuba, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Portugal, Greece, buttock enhancement, Hungary, Mexico, South Korea, rejuvenation, tummy tuck, Taiwan, Costa Rica, cosmetic surgery, Spain, international patients, Brazil

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