Cheryl Smith is no novice to communicating the value of medical travel. She’s been boosting opportunities for the city of Las Vegas in her role as Medical & Wellness Tourism manager at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA.com) for nearly three years.
“If I told you about everything new happening in Las Vegas I’d run out of words,” quips Smith. “But the whole focus in terms of what I’m doing with medical and wellness travel is a new concept for our destination.”
Under her direction, the LVCVA has taken a multi-faceted approach to examining what Las Vegas does very, very well.
“Certainly healthcare meetings and medical meetings are a key piece, and an obvious thing, for us to begin strategizing ways to expand and grow that business,” she explains. “This includes increasing the number of bookings for medical meetings, like the Bio Skills Training and Continuing Medical Education for doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. We have five surgical-skills training facilities here that provide continuing medical education services for physicians, so there are approved cadaver training facilities and approved veterinary training facilities, too.”
Smith is powering up presentations and programs for the upcoming Institute for Healthcare Consumerism™ Forum West, November 10-12, 2014, Las Vegas, Nevada. (http://www.theihccforum.com/2014west/) The City will feature its hotels, spas, accommodations and specialized accommodations for corporate medical travelers and others interested in Las Vegas as a medical/wellness destination.
“We are working on a special set of programs for pre-conference day — an opportunity to really showcase the medical and wellness facilities that are offered within the destination,” says Smith, “We want to promote the concept that Las Vegas is a medical and wellness travel destination. That idea in and of itself is new to many people.”
From a value proposition perspective, she says that Las Vegas offers many features that employers would find very attractive.
“Some are obvious, but others may not be so obvious,” says Smith. “The number of hotel rooms and availability for combinations that we offer is staggering. Airline transportation schedules are incredible — over 900 daily inbound and outbound flights. While this number fluctuates, the ease and ability with which people can travel domestically, as well as internationally, to Las Vegas is remarkable.”
Smith also cites the fact that Las Vegas offers an abundance of other amenities.
“For example, we are known as a dining and foodie destination with great restaurants,” notes Smith. “For people who are traveling for a wellness purpose, they may ask, ‘How many of those restaurants offer healthy dining options?”
The answer is that the City has just added this information to its website: www.lasvegas.com. People can actually search healthy dining, vegetarian and vegan-friendly menu options at restaurants. Smith estimates that there is well over 50 or 60 restaurants just on the Las Vegas strip alone that offer those types of amenities.
When people are coming to a conference, they will have the ability to see Las Vegas from many perspectives, including the “wellness side.” Las Vegas boasts 45 resort model spas that offer wellness and preventative health type services for de-stressing, relaxation, rest and rejuvenation. Ten of these spas are Forbes-rated and considered “five star.”
“I’ve been told by industry gurus that Las Vegas has more spas in one destination than anywhere else in the world,” says Smith. “So when you look at the availability and accessibility to experience a wellness, preventative health or even a corporate wellness team-building experience tied to wellness and healthcare, Las Vegas is the destination of choice.”
From her point of view, Smith views medical care and wellness as two separate offerings.
“Our primary approach is certainly to promote medical meetings, but we are also focusing on wellness travel and preventative health, as well as medical travel,” adds Smith. “The reason that medical travel is positioned in third place is because it does involve more collaboration and represents an entirely different industry than the travel and tourism industries — which is the specialty focus of LVCVA.”
Smith goes on to explain the collaborative relationship with a multi-disciplinary, not-for-profit healthcare organization called Las Vegas HEALS (http://www.lasvegasheals.org/)
“This collaboration spans our economic developing agencies, medical schools and main university — the University of Las Vegas — for the development of a strategic plan for the community to look at the development of medical tourism in the community,” says Smith. “Part of that does include working with the community around price transparency and packaged pricing, and bundling of medical services. It covers the whole experience.”
While the focus at LVCVA is on travel tourism, the organization is not comprised of medical experts, making this partnership with Las Vegas HEALS so important.
“Las Vegas HEALS embraces that concept on behalf of the medical community, and then works with the medical providers here in town to really identify who is doing what, who is an expert in which areas, and what our Centers of Excellence offer,” says Smith. “We really just launched the relationship and still have some work to do. Some providers have figured it out and offer package programs with transparent pricing. Others are still in the development process.”
Smith is very proud of the fact that Las Vegas has a lot of hotels – over 150,000 hotel rooms within the destination. Not all of them are the necessarily the best places for a medical traveler to recover, but some hotels have taken the lead for the hotel industry to begin incorporating wellness technologies and amenities into the rooms.
“A great example of that is the Stay Well Room Product at MGM,” says Smith. “They have really been a leader for the hotel industry in working with the Cleveland Clinic and a company called Delos Living (http://delosliving.com/mission/defining-wellness-real-estate/) to really infuse the rooms with wellness technology.”
These technologies may be of interest to any traveler, whether they are coming to Las Vegas for a medical or wellness purpose or otherwise.
Smith adds, “M Resort also has a new room that they call the Experience Room, which is basically a room that comes with wellness amenities that can be brought into the room. They also offer a Vitamin C-infused shower head and other types of aroma therapy and enhancements that create more of a wellness environment.”
She points to other accommodations that are “off the strip” that may appeal to medical travelers who are traveling with a spouse or family members.
“Hilton Grand Vacations has a new medical traveler’s discount program, and these are non-gaming, non-smoking facilities hotels and accommodations that are apartment/condo type units with kitchens and in-room washers and dryers,” says Smith. “Sometimes they offer multiple bedrooms, and are terrific for a family or people who are coming here for care and having to stay for a longer period of time.”
Then there’s a whole different type of experience like the one available at Trump International Hotel Resorts and Spas in Las Vegas.
“It’s also off the strip and non-gaming, but offers a different experience,” she says. “Trump Wellness includes everything from an early morning boot camp for organized workouts to complete spa treatments — all designed around a wellness and preventative health experience. They are trying to target the traditional medical surgical traveler and the wellness preventative traveler.”
The logical question is this: Are there any other cities that are making any effort to do this kind of program?
Smith responds, “Honestly, I am so focused on Las Vegas — which is the greatest city in the world, in my opinion – that I really couldn’t address what other cities are doing. I am focusing strictly on what we are doing here, and I love it.”
Nota bene (NB): She says that no other cities have called her to get some guidance – but one would bet that those calls will be forthcoming. After all, many other cities now have gaming, spas, hotels, medical providers and Centers of Excellence….so medical travel will be a natural ally. Stay tuned.