Rise of medical tourism in India


Over the past decade, India has gained a reputation for providing high quality medical services at low cost to medical tourists traveling from all over the world. However, with travel bans during the covid-19 pandemic, the influx of medical tourists had dropped. According to the Ministry of Tourism, India recorded a negative growth of 79.4% in 2020. However, the situation looks positive again thanks to the efforts made to manage the pandemic situation. Market insights suggest demand is expected to grow at a robust CAGR of 19% in 2022.

Why is India becoming the people’s medical center for the sick? India’s healthcare industry offers a combination of modern and traditional forms of medicine that sets the country apart from others. First, it has a set of world-class doctors and hospitals that provide treatment at fractional rates compared to other countries. Second, India’s systems of medicine: AYUSH i.e. Ayurveda, Yoga, Panchakarma, rejuvenation therapy, etc., which are the oldest forms of medicine, are now gaining a immense popularity around the world. PM Modi also recently announced plans to launch an AYUSH brand. A brand to give credibility to AYUSH products in India and promote the medical tourism sector in India. Additionally, the other medical services and facilities are also supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA).

To become the premier medical travel destination, significant investment is needed to make the healthcare industry and facilities attractive to international patients. Patients spend most of their time in guesthouses and are prone to further infections from these places. Thus, proper infrastructure and standardization must be introduced urgently in the tourism industry and the linkage of bed and breakfast service providers. Another aspect that needs to be exploited is the ability to sell Indian health insurance to foreigners. This has the capacity to generate an additional $9 billion in patient influx in India.

To maximize the industry’s potential, the government is pulling out all the stops. The objective is to make India the first destination for medical tourism in the world, by tripling its turnover to 13 billion dollars in 4 years. The government also proposed spending $28.7 billion on health and welfare, 137% more than budget spending the previous year.

The following measures have been taken by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare:

  • Special Provision of Medical Visa was designed for tourists traveling to India for medical purposes. This has been made available in 165 countries.
  • Setting up a feedback mechanism to get testimonials from traveling tourists in the country for medical purposes. This “one step” portal would add convenience and provide credible information to medical tourists coming to India.
  • The The Healing India initiative aims to position the country as a global hub for medical and wellness tourism. Under the initiative, foreigners or those seeking medical help will be able to locate the list of hospitals nationwide available to provide their choice of medical treatments through a “one-step” online portal. It is a one-stop-shop for all services, from cost of processing package, visa applications to grievance redress and feedback. The initiative also aims to provide a database of healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses and pharmacists and will also include a section where professionals can specify the country in which they are most interested in providing their services. . This will allow India to diversify its operations by sending doctors abroad to treat patients.

The following measures have been taken by the Ministry of Tourism:

  • The Marketing Development Assistance (MDA) program offers financial assistance to licensed tourism service providers to promote a complex set of facilities for tourists to stay.
  • Publicity materials, such as brochures and CDs, to promote medical and health tourism have been disseminated in target markets. Yoga/Ayurveda/Wellness has been promoted over the past two years in print, electronic, internet and outdoor media as part of the Ministry of Tourism’s ‘Incredible India Campaign’.

To conclude, in the post-Covid world, the demand for the healthcare sector is bound to increase and there is huge potential for India to realize and move forward aggressively to attract medical tourists from other parts of the world, including Europe and the Americas. With the government making it a priority to make India the hub of medical tourism, the initiatives combined with the growing demand are sure to make India the hub of all medical tourists in the future. Not only will India be the leader in saving millions of lives, but it will also simultaneously generate valuable jobs and over $13 billion in foreign exchange.

This blog was co-authored by Priyanka Cardoz and Sanjana Saigal.


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