Orlando summit targets ways to pull in 'medical tourism'

by Sara K. Clarke ,  OrlandoSentinel.com | 2008-09-19

Representatives from Orlando's health-care and tourism industries met Thursday for the first time to discuss ways of drawing more visitors to Orlando by promoting assets such as the "medical city" under development in southeast Orlando.

The Orlando Medical Meetings & Tourism Summit focused on two distinct sources of visitors: patients who might travel here for medical procedures at local hospitals, and doctors and other health-care professionals who might attend conventions and meetings in Orlando.

Medical tourism could be "truly a game changer" for Orlando, said Gary Sain, president and chief executive officer of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau. "This is bringing the community together for the good of all."

Orlando already ranks as one of the nation's top locations for medical meetings. In 2006, it trailed only Las Vegas and Chicago as a top host of such meetings, according to visitor-bureau statistics.

But Sain estimated that Orlando has not done any business with about half of the 1,500 medical associations his agency has identified as potential clients.

"We need to just raise the water for everyone, for all boats," said Des Cummings, Florida Hospital's executive vice president. "There is a demand if we simply expose the competencies we have in Orlando."

Thursday's summit focused primarily on developing an overarching brand -- "one cohesive story line," one marketing executive said -- for a medical-tourism initiative that would allow many competing entities to prosper simultaneously.

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