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Monday, June 15, 2015

Separate Department for Medical Tourism Soon as Patients Flock to Desi Hospitals

India is fast becoming a popular medical tourism destination. Out of the 41,000 Iraqi tourists visited the country in 2013, over 53 per cent came here for medical treatment.

Similarly, 45 per cent of Afghanis and 45 per cent of Nigerians came here for similar reasons. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of foreign tourists coming to India for medical purposes doubled.

Encouraged by the response of foreign tourists visiting India for world-class medical treatment available here at much lower rates, the Indian government is setting up a separate body for medical tourism.

“We will soon be setting up a separate department in the ministry to act as coordinating office to provide help to the medical tourists visiting the country. It would include ministry officials and stakeholders like those from hospitals, hospitality industry, tour operators,” Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma told Express.

He said the announcement in this regard would be made in the next few days.

“India is an affordable destination for people looking for best medical facilities at 1/8th cost of that available in some advanced countries. Even in countries like the US and the UK, Indian doctors are considered the best,” Sharma said.

A Lok Sabha MP from Gautam Budh Nagar, Sharma himself is a trained medical doctor and chairman of Kailash Health Care, which runs a chain of super-and multi-speciality hospitals.

The celebration of International Yoga Day has brought the focus on Indian system of medicine, particularly the alternative stream, which includes Ayurveda and holistic wellness. Sharma says the Ministry of AYUSH and Health, too, will join in the new initiative planned by his ministry.

Globally, medical value travel is a $10.5 billion industry estimated to grow to $32.5 billion over the next five years at compound annual growth rate of 17.9 per cent. India certainly wants a lion’s share of this pie.

However, it faces stiff competition from better organised rivals. “Countries like the US, Turkey, Japan and smaller ones like Jordan, Croatia, Costa Rica and Malaysia are extremely organised in promoting themselves for medical travel,” says a recently released report by global consultancy firm KPMG.

However, in contrast, India is fragmented in its approach as only individual hospitals have been promoting themselves as medical tourism destinations,” the report stated.

In 2012, India received 1.7 lakh foreign tourists, who came here for medical treatment, while Thailand received 25.30 lakh medical tourists, thus indicating what a better-planned approach can do. Popular medical tourism destinations in India are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, New Delhi, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.

In a recent statement, Sharma said that the wellness industry was growing by 30 per cent in India.

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