An overview of the Indian medical tourism industry
Since ancient times, the Indian way of treating guests as God ‘Atithi Devo Bhavah’ gives its tourism industry a special meaning across globe. India has always been a country of tourist attraction for people of all ages with its varied culture and geography, exquisite landscapes, religions and spirituality, rich historical heritage, wide range of foods and festivals, year round fairs and exhibitions, exclusive shopping stuff and several leisure opportunities. Now in recent times, Indian tourism has added a feather in its cap by emerging as one of the hottest destinations in medical tourism also. Medical tourism has been a practice since times immemorial but has emerged as a commercially vital practice only recently. Medical tourism stands for the practice of travelling abroad with the primary objective of seeking better health at the most economical prices and combining the trip as an opportunity to visit tourist destinations of that country.
Current Indian Medical Tourism Industry
At present the medical tourism industry in India is at a nascent stage but experts believe the industry has lot of potential to emerge as a global leader. The statistics reveal that the industry values more than $310 million in 2011 and as far as numbers are concerned, at present more than 1 lakh foreign patients visit India every year to avail healthcare services. According to the estimates of the Confederation of Indian Industry, the industry is expected to grow to $2 billion by the end of 2012 at a 30% annual growth rate. Major chunk of tourists come from developed nations of UK and US, and the SAARC countries. The major reasons behind industry growth over recent years include the Government’s initiatives both at the centre and state, lowered costs of healthcare services, improved infrastructure, massive promotion of Indian tourism through campaigns like ‘Incredible India’ promoting the philosophy of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. The growth in the medical tourism industry is of extreme importance as it will foster growth rate in other aligned industries as well like healthcare devices and the overall tourism industry.
The Indian Advantage
The costs of various treatments are far less than in most of the developed countries. More important is that fact that the low cost healthcare services offered in India are by no means low in quality. The country offers specialties in joint replacement surgeries, cardiac surgeries, dental treatments, orthopedic treatments and surgeries, cosmetic surgeries, urology, infertility treatments and organ transplants. India’s advantage also lies in offering alternative medicine systems like yoga, naturopathy, ayurveda and meditation which have the proven capability of curing deadly ailments without surgery. Moreover, the medical services are available without much waiting lines so the treatment is never delayed. The comfort of medical tourists is further enhanced with a high proportion of English speaking population in India which makes communication flow easier and effective.
The Indian Disadvantage
India scores very low in reputation when it comes to infrastructure and hygiene. Indian doctors are known for their expertise across the globe and are in high demand but India fails to offer them as lucrative opportunities as the developed nations resulting into the serious problem of brain drain. The country also suffers from a lack of coordination among healthcare, tourism and travel industries which leads to loss of synergies in the field of medical tourism.
The road ahead in medical tourism industry is bright for India provided a coordinated effort is made in this direction.