Feb. 4, 2015


Wendy Sánchez Imbert

Dominican Republic

Wendy Sánchez Imbert

Director of Health Tourism Department, Ministry of Tourism

BIO

In 1991, Wendy Sánchez Imbert attended Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM) to study Business Administration before going to the Univeristy of Quebec to obtain her MBA. In 1997, she began working for Sabre Travel Network as an Account Executive where she soon started to move up the ranks. In 2004, she became a business consultant, and in 2007 the sales manager, before becoming the Director of Sales in 2009. In 2013, Sánchez took on her current role as Director of the Health Tourism Department at the Ministry of Tourism.

Medical tourism is a highly profitable global phenomenon with a tremendous potential for further growth. How would you assess its development in the Dominican Republic?

The Dominican Republic has a huge potential in the medical tourism sector and I see more and more people coming here for treatment. In November, I attended the Global Medical Tourism Conference organized by the authorities of all the Caribbean countries to discuss the potential of developing the region as a health tourism destination. At that conference I realized that our country has all it takes in terms of infrastructure and potential, and that we simply need to promote this to the world. The key factor now is quality and the players in the national project. We are set to promote the country as a whole, rather than specific hospitals. Therefore, we need to monitor the quality levels of participants. Currently we are formulating the certification processes for hospitals and clinics. Some of the criteria we prioritize include having an international department, where the staff speaks English, and so on.

What role do Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs) play in the development of the sector?

Cooperation between the public and the private sectors is key for the development of the health tourism sector. The tourism board has considerable resources in terms of branch network and a robust promotion chain. And once we integrate medical tourism as part of our promotional goals, the field will become much clearer to navigate. The private sector, meanwhile, has the facilities, knowledge, technology and qualified staff. I think the success of the medical tourism sector depends upon cooperation between the public and private sector. This will also show foreign investors that we are willing to help each other to achieve common goals.

What strategies and initiatives are being implemented to promote the Dominican Republic as a medical destination?

We do not implement specific actions, because we are in the process of giving a framework to the participants of this nationwide project and setting up quality levels. However, we have plans to promote the country and medical tourism across four areas: dentistry, plastic surgery, orthopedics, and bariatric surgery. At the same time, we want to position the Dominican Republic as the second home for medical visitors. We want, essentially, to exploit the friendliness of Dominicans and the natural wonders of our country as a tourism destination. We initially target Dominicans residing in the US, as we know they want to come here for treatment. In New York alone there are over one million Dominicans. We believe the slogan “you feel at home" will work perfectly with this target audience.

What are the main guidelines of your three-year plan?

One of the goals is to sign a partnership with the Medical Tourism Association. We plan to carry out a feasibility study to determine our main expenses over the next six months; we know we have the potential, and plan to better target our audiences. As I said, our first target audience is Dominican expatriates. This would represent phase one of the plan. In phase two, we want to invest in training, and we foresee the creation of a dedicated cluster. This is foreseen materializing within around a year's time, and should raise the level of quality and technology of our industry. We also have a program to develop health and clinical programs, in which we will work toward education and promotion of the country. Finally, phase three will see the creation of a destination guide from the Dominican Republic to promote the industry abroad, and we plan to participate in numerous trade shows and fairs.