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Huge scope for Medical Tourism in India

In Article
March 27, 2019

E M Najeeb,
Executive Director,

Wellness was a motivating factor for travel among the ancient civilizations. From ancient times Romans, Greeks and other cultures had the quest for wellness.

Locations of mineral water springs and sea-side spas were the beginning of wellness travel. India is known for its holistic medicine systems, Ayurvedic spa, Naturopathy, and other wellness therapies. Holistic health management has been accepted widely as a wellness and lifestyle choice. The global wellness sector contributes USD 3.7 trillion to the economy and continues to grow by 10.6%.

Now Medical Value Travel has established as a major segment in the wellness tourism sector. For a country like India with excellent hospitals, world-class doctors, experienced paramedics, Medical Tourism is a great opportunity. Knowing its importance the tourism industry and the Government are enthusiastic in promoting Medical Tourism in the country. Agents in India can have tie-ups, associations, and packages from leading Medical Tourism offering hospitals and get on to their own marketing efforts.

The CII – McKinsy report shows that Indian Medical Tourism sector is expected to grow 30% annually. According to a CII White paper, cost is a major factor driving 80% of the Medical Tourists around the world. The comparatively economical medical cost and accredited medical facilities have led to several medical destinations like Singapore, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Mexico and Costa Rica to emerge.

Among these locations India is ranked as the second largest in terms of accredited facilities. The Indian Medical tourism market is expected to grow from its current size of USD 3 billion to USD 9 billion by 2020. India currently accounts for around 18% of the Global Medical Tourism market. In 2017, India received 4.95 lakh Medical visitors.

India has 28 JCI accredited hospitals. Chennai, Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh, and the National Capital Region are the most favored Medical Tourism destinations in India. Kerala is emerging as a major Medical Tourism destination. Kerala attracts 5-7% of the Indian Medical Tourism and is expected to grow to 10-12%.

In India, 34% of the total Medical Value Travel is from Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Africa, GCC and CIS regions constituting 30% of current share, create maximum opportunity for the Indian Healthcare sector. Medical tourists from these countries favor the South-East Asian Medical Corridors. For Kerala, the GCC countries and Maldives are major sources.

The CII White Paper suggests to attract the African, Asian and Middle East Patients and also the domestic Medical Tourist from other regions of the country through effective marketing campaigns supported by the Government. Kerala has advanced and sophisticated hospitals of international standards offering world-class treatments at lower cost. Kerala has 26 NABH accredited hospitals and 13 Medical Colleges. Kerala has a great InformationTechnology advantage. Also the state has most advanced data-com and telecom infrastructure.

Medical Tourism has a great future. Government should give more support to this industry. Hospitals should be given industry status for power, import of machinery and equipments to make it cost effective. Public Private Participation (PPP) Model should be followed in promoting Medical Tourism. Central Government should help to popularize Medical Tourism through Embassies, and Health Ministries in various foreign countries.

Special efforts should be targeted at SAARC countries. We have to do the needful to develop reliable referral contacts to route travelers from across the globe. Top priority should be given to the safety and security of the travelers. The ‘e-Visa-on-Arrival’ Scheme for tourists from select countries facilitate foreign nationals stay in India for 30 days for medical reasons. In 2016, citizens of Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldives, Republic of Korea and Nigeria availed maximum number of medical visas.

The Union Government and most of the state Governments are supporting Medical Tourism and are carrying out campaigns. Kerala has a great opportunity to grow as a recuperative leisure destination in the years to come. The state also has a reputation of its alternative medical therapies like Ayurveda, Sidha, and traditional medicines.

Connectivity to Kerala is excellent through its four international airports and that will support and facilitate Tourism and Medical Tourism in Kerala. Trivandrum and Cochin airports have e-Visa arrival facility offered to about 161 countries which would support Medical Tourism in Kerala.