Industry Update
Opinion Article12 April 2021

HVS Monday Musings: Medical Tourism In India

By Mandeep S Lamba, MRICS, President (South Asia), New Delhi and Dipti Mohan, Senior Manager - Research, New Delhi

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In the last decade, India has emerged as one of the leading medical tourism destinations globally. The presence of several high-quality, well-equipped healthcare facilities along with a strong base of highly skilled and specialized English-speaking medical professionals, offering world-class treatments at much more affordable costs compared to developed nations are some of the reasons for the growth of this segment in India. Reports indicate that medical treatments and travel in India cost up to 50% less than that in developed western countries. India has also been successful at attracting medical tourists from other developing nations, mainly from Asia and Africa, looking for specialized treatments that may not be easily available in their home countries.

Looking at the potential in this segment, the government introduced e-medical visa in 2014, which along with the other competitive advantages mentioned earlier have provided a significant boost to this segment. The government also set up facilitation counters at major airports for medical travellers and launched a portal to provide comprehensive information on the healthcare facilities in the country. As a result, foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) on medical visa to India has grown at a notable CAGR of over 30% during 2014-19 and accounted for 6.4% of the total FTAs in the country in 2019. The medical tourism segment was expected to reach US$9 bn in 2020 as per a report by FICCI, however, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions became temporary roadblocks in its growth story. The segment has been witnessing green shoots in the last few months with easing travel restrictions and creation of air bubbles, with a number of medical travelers, especially those coming in for critical treatments, gradually picking up.

The current pandemic is an inflection point for the medical tourism segment in India, giving the country an opportunity to become a global medical tourism hub as soon as international travel restrictions are eased considerably. During the last one year, India has been lauded for handling the COVID crisis in a much better way compared to other countries, especially due to the lower COVID-mortality rate in the country. India has also been one of the few countries to manufacture its own COVID vaccination, which is being used to inoculate not only Indians but also people in other countries, clearly showcasing the country's scientific prowess and capabilities. The government is also increasing its spending on healthcare to improve the healthcare infrastructure in the country. These initiatives will help increase the credibility of the Indian healthcare sector in the eyes of medical travellers going forward. Moreover, India continues to be one of the most affordable destinations for medical treatments globally, which will continue to be an advantage in the post-COVID world.

India competes with other Asian countries such as Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia that offer similar advantages to medical travellers. It is, therefore, imperative to develop effective marketing campaigns to create awareness and communicate the COVID safety measures being implemented at various facilities. This will showcase the country as a 'safe' global medical tourism destination and help rebuild traveller confidence. The campaigns should not only highlight the various healthcare facilities & services offered at a much more reasonable cost, but also promote India's strength in alternate medicine and practices such as Ayurveda, Naturopathy and Yoga which can help patients recuperate after their treatment. India has 37 JCI and 767 NABH accredited hospitals and it is important to ensure that all these facilities meet the required quality standards. Public-private partnerships to improve the healthcare infrastructure in the country can go a long way in leveraging the full potential of medical tourism in the country.

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Mandeep S Lamba

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Dipti Mohan

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Mandeep S Lamba
President (South Asia), New Delhi
Phone: +91 (124) 488-5552
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