After a hiatus of more than a year, the influx of medical tourists to India has resumed, especially for organ transplants, oncology and cardiology, medical value travel agencies told News18.com .
Medical tourism companies believe that tourist confidence in India has increased and they are planning better infrastructure as a result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Ayushman Bharat initiative.
The main countries from which tourists have started to come are the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, African countries, Iraq, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and Myanmar. The GCC includes Bahrain, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The other countries from which medical tourists are starting to come, including requests for alternative or Ayurvedic treatment, are mainly countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which include Armenia, Belarus, Russia, l ‘Ukraine and others.
âYemen and Afghanistan are not currently stable due to internal circumstances. However, tourists from these two countries also traveled frequently to India during the non-Covid period for alternative therapies, âAmit Sharma, managing director of eExpedise Healthcare, told News18.com.
While organ transplantation, oncology and cardiology are the main therapeutic categories for which the majority of tourists arrive in India, Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore, hospital chains Fortis, Apollo and Max Healthcare across India are among the popular destinations.
Competition from Turkey
According to data from the Ministry of Tourism, India was ranked as the third most popular medical tourism destination in 2015. At that time, the industry was worth $ 3 billion and nearly 2.34 lakh patients are arrived for treatment.
By 2017, the number of arrivals had increased to 4.95 lakh and the Indian medical tourism industry was expected to grow 200% by 2020, reaching $ 9 billion (approximately Rs 68,000 crore).
However, April 2020 dealt the industry a heavy blow when the skies were shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, reducing revenues to zero.
This year, from July 2021, foreign tourists started to return. âWe have received many patients from Fiji. In addition, requests from Jordan have been considerably higher, outside the usual GCC countries, âsaid Sharma.
In October, Sharma’s company brought 60 patients for medical treatment to India. The number of medical tourists rose to more than 100 in November. In December, the company expects the arrival of more than 150 patients.
According to Mihir Vora, CEO of Mumbai-based medical tourism company Magnus Medi, India has already lost a lot of business to Turkey during the pandemic.
âThe past two years have been a roller coaster ride. When we started to recover, the Delta variant came in, and now, when we recover, the fear of Omicron has arisen, âadded Vora, advising the government to avoid the complete flight ban, allowing them. priority medical tourists.
If everything remains constant, over the next three months the industry expects activity to return to a normal level. âBefore Covid, we see an average of 200 patients per month. By February-March, we plan to achieve this, assuming Covid-19 remains at the same levels. ”
Government promotes India as safe overseas destination
According to the industry, the Modi government has promoted India as a safe destination for medical procedures in foreign countries, which has helped the recovery. The launch of the Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat health infrastructure mission also played a crucial role.
âSince May, the Indian government, through high commissions and embassies, has been helping us promote India as a safe destination in foreign countries,â said Vinay Aggarwal, Managing Director of Shinon Global. âThe government has indicated that Covid-19 cases are declining in India, in addition to easing visa requirements. “
The launch of a health infrastructure program with a budget of over Rs 64,000 crore has helped boost confidence among medical tourists, industry veterans believe.
âWhile India is still popular among medical tourists for its skilled medical fraternity and reasonable costs, the launch of this program has built confidence in a more solid infrastructure and the intention to improve it even more,â he said. Sharma said.
Aggarwal of Shinon Global added that while Ayushman Bharat is a great initiative and will provide the much needed boost to the industry, the government should involve stakeholders in the medical travel industry in shaping the strategy for medical tourists.
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