The Jacksonville Aviation Authority is looking to be a partner in Jacksonville’s medical tourism industry, making it a unique priority in its adopted five-year strategic plan.
During the review and adoption of the plan at its Monday board meeting, the aviation authority included adding promotion of medical tourism to its customer service strategy.
About five years ago, the JAA did look into partnering with hospitals, but only saw some interest from Mayo Clinic. Now, with the medical tourism industry more developed, especially with patients coming in from South and Central America, JAA is looking to be a champion for that sector of travel.
“The next step is to go back to the medical community,” said Michael Stewart, spokesman for the JAA, “and see what more we can do to enhance our service to the medical community.”
That means bringing in patients, mostly from Miami flying in on American Airlines’ jet service. It also means helping the medical supply chain, shipping in any supplies supporting hospitals, Stewart said.
JAA championing medical tourism is something other organizations could get behind.
“We would be interested in partnering with JAA, in finding other locations to target and where our patients are coming from,” said Patty Jimenez, leisure communications specialist for Visit Jacksonville, which has its own medical tourism program. “It would only help us grow. We would partner with anyone who wants to partner with us.”
Not only is the JAA looking to support medical tourism, but to do more to asses how it can service the business community as a whole.
The airport will develop metrics to survey the business community specifically not just on its customer service, but what it can do to spur economic development and meet the needs of businesses.
Both initiatives were pushed for by board member Teresa Davlantes, secretary of the board.
“We need to engage in the conversation,” she told the Business Journal following the board meeting. “There’s an increase in willingness of people to travel for medical procedures, even domestically, and we need to do more to promote medical tourism. We have quality providers and we can help capitalize on that.”
The JAA’s role will be to support the actual travel part.
“The challenge is how to get them here,” she said. “We’ll be assessing the needs and meeting those needs.”
In addition to medical tourism and servicing business, JAA included in its strategic plan improving service through more internet access and adding non-stop destinations over the next five years.
That includes flying internationally, although success in that arena could be fairly limited.
“Our targets for international flights will the Caribbean and Central America,” said CEO Steve Grossman. “Given the growth and activities in Jacksonville, we’re pursuing opportunities in Europe, but on that we’re less optimistic. And if you want to fly to Asia, you should plan to change planes in Atlanta.”