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San Diego Turns To Medical Reputation For Tourism Boost

San Diego, which already brings in 34.9 million tourists yearly, has a new lure: top-notch medical treatment.


The city is promoting medical tourism as its next big draw. DestinationCare San Diego, a coalition of local leaders with the city's four major hospitals — Sharp Healthcare, Scripps Health, UC San Diego Health System and Rady Children's Hospital — is behind the initiative officially launched this week at the Worth Health Summit.

A website, started in August, helps tourists navigate local healthcare services. The program is not about low-cost medical procedures, but rather about why patients seeking the best treatment should come to San Diego, DestinationCare interim CEO Tom Gehring told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“We have some of the finest healthcare institutions and cutting-edge research happening right here in San Diego,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at the Worth Health Summit. “We also have some of the best weather and attractions in America for folks to relax and recuperate.”

Using an initial investment of $150K, the plan is to attract visitors with the city's medical and life science reputation. That should bring in business for both hospitals and hotels, the Union-Tribune reports. The initial focus will be on bringing in patients from elsewhere in the U.S.

The bulk of the seed money comes from San Diego businessman and philanthropist Malin Burnham, who is also chairman of the DestinationCare San Diego board.

San Diego skyline

San Diego tourists spend $10.4B a year, bringing $17.2B in annual regional impact, according to the San Diego Tourism Authority.

The hope is to capture some of the $100B medical tourism market, the Times of San Diego reports. Healthcare is one of the San Diego region's largest economic sectors.

Healthcare and social assistance organizations employ more than 140,000 people in San Diego, and San Diego healthcare companies pay more than $6.9B in wages each year, according to the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. Every additional $50M spent on healthcare services, including from increased medical tourism, creates another 600 jobs in the San Diego economy.

The San Diego Regional EDC, the San Diego Tourism Authority and San Diego Health Connect are also part of the consortium behind the initiative, San Diego Metro reports. The hospitals are holding off on contributing to the marketing push until they see if it makes a difference in demand for services from visitors, the Union-Tribune reports.

For more on San Diego tourism, join us at Bisnow's San Diego Tourism Boom on Nov. 30 at The Westin San Diego.