Frederick J. DeMicco, PhD, is the Executive Director and Professor in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Northern Arizona University, USA. He has had a stellar career, having been the Aramark Endowed Department Chair in the Lerner College of Business & Economics in Hospitality Business Management at the University of Delaware; Associate Director of the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Recreation Management (HRRM) at Penn State University, and Darden Eminent Scholar Chair Visiting Professor to the University of Central Florida–Rosen College, the USF Sarasota- Manatee, among other illustrative roles. He is the author of the new title Medical Travel Brand Management: Success Strategies for Hospitality Bridging Healthcare (H2H), edited with Dr. Ali A. Poorani.  

Read our exclusive Q&A to learn more about Frederick J. DeMicco's perspectives on the medical travel and tourism industry. 


Congratulations on the publication of your new book. For those who are uninitiated, can you briefly explain what medical travel and medical tourism between the two? 

Getting sick can ruin a vacation. But for growing numbers of people, needing to see the doctor is the exact point of going abroad. When medical tourists require surgery or dental work, they can combine it with a trip to the Taj Mahal, a photo safari on the African veldt, or a stay at a luxury hotel—or at a hospital that feels like a luxury hotel—all at bargain-basement prices compared to home. 

“Medical tourism” and “medical travel” can both include an international visit or inter-state or intra state in the USA and into other countries. To distinguish between the two, medical tourism usually involves a leisure or vacation aspect in addition to the medical care. It is typically for cosmetic, fertility, spa, and other wellness reasons. 

However, medical travel is predominantly for more acute and often more crucial medical care (and not typically for leisure activities—as is the case with medical tourism). Examples would be for heart treatment, orthopedics, cancer, and other life-threatening health reasons. Tourists and vacationers that become injured or develop a (minor or major) medical condition while traveling long distances away from home and need medical care we call “accidental tourists.” 

Is this a growing thing? How popular is it? 

Strategies for a quality patient/guest experiences are reflected in a headline in the Wall Street Journal that reported that Walmart will now require (and not ask) their employees to travel for their (spinal) surgery. These employees will probably take a flight, and then spend an overnight or more in a hotel or other hospitality facility such as a time share rental, Airbnb, or other. This is one part of the growing phenomenon of global medical travel or tourism, which is the focus of my new book. 

Medical travel and medical tourism are niche markets in the hospitality industry. Patients Beyond Borders (PBB), an online clearinghouse of information about medical tourism estimates, that 12m to 14m people travel internationally for care each year. Only one in ten go for medical treatment, and 70 percent of them want cosmetic surgery or other elective procedures. The remainder seek a variety of “wellness” services like spa visits, supervised exercise, and dieting. This puts medical tourism revenues between $40bn and $60bn per year. PBB’s best guess is that the market is growing by 15–25 percent annually. 

Tell us about your new book. 

Our new book, Medical Travel Brand Management: Success Strategies for Hospitality Bridging Healthcare (H2H) (2023) (edited with Dr. Ali A. Poorani), complements our earlier volume: Medical Tourism: Hospitality Bridging Healthcare (H2H). In the new volume, we explore the multitude of medical travel services and discuss the integration of traveling medical guests with destination providers, hospitality/healthcare professionals, and travel service providers. We address the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has made on the travel industry. We brought together major players in this field, renowned authors, practitioners, and researchers to create this book to help prepare the medical tourism market to not only recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic but also to provide tools and cases that will help to structure successful destinations for medical travel. 

We expect the volume to be an important resource for hospitality and tourism professionals, medical travelers themselves, government agencies, intermediaries, and health and wellness providers.