India is the fastest growing medical and wellness tourism destination in the world and is currently ranked 3rd among the world’s emerging wellness and tourism destinations. The Indian medical tourism market is growing currently at 20% per annum and is slated to capture a significant share of the global US$15 billion medical tourism industry. Blow are some key points on medical tourism:
With increased connectivity, lower costs and the e-visa policy, this has led to a boom for medical tourism. India currently produces about 30,000 doctors per annum, which is an advantage to the emerging medical tourist industry in India.
Demand is driven by the cost proposition
The cost is a critical component before a patient decides to choose the country where to receive the treatment. India is currently the cheapest among the top medical tourist destinations. As of 2017, the following are the approximate costs for each of the treatment, in US dollars.
(Treatment & costs in USD)
|Heart valve replacement||170000||11000||12500||9000|
Time-bound treatments (no queues) also a plus
Unlike many of the countries particularly in the developed world where patients have a long queuing system to wait for, India has no such issues. Any patient requiring any surgery or treatment, having a visa or through foreign office services, can come straight into India and take the treatment.
- Region-wise countries that come to India for treatment:
- North India: Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Austria, Belgium, USA, UK, Turkmenistan, CIS countries.
- Tourists from developed countries where queuing for procedures is an issue. For instance, systems like the British NHS, uninsured and those who happen to be in group insurance
- South and Western India: African countries like Nigeria, Sudan, South Africa, Botswana, Kenya , southeast Asia, far east Asia (customers who cannot afford treatment in their own countries and those who are not insured in the healthcare system there).
- The government is taking serious initiative to promote AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddhi and Homeopathy) system of medicine as a part of the medical and wellness tourism collectively
- The e-visa currently in place is different from the medical visa that is currently present in Indian visa system
- There is also an increased focus to provide post-operative recuperation tour packages to unique places such as hill stations, where the patients can recover from their treatment
- The Ministry of Tourism has also launched an incentive to small scale agencies and organizations, which promote India as a medical tourism and a tourism destination abroad. This incentive drive includes reimbursement of travel related expenses to that specific country for these organizations
Competitors and why India has lost some share
Currently, there is stiff competition among medical tourism destinations from around the world and India has lost crucial market these countries other than the traditional destinations like Singapore and Thailand. It is also being observed that countries such as Turkey and Iran are emerging as alternate competitors to India. The losses are driven by several reasons however, these are gradually diminishing:
- The general perception of India being an unsafe country.
- Public hygiene and cleanliness perception, deemed unhealthy
- Visa requirements until that earlier required a wait (2-3 months sometimes), therefore forcing them to seek treatment in Thailand where all the medicine related visa is on an On-Arrival basis.
- Fraud cases where patients from foreign countries have been charged despite not having any surgery done.
- There is a lack of any integration of tour servicing packages with that of airlines and other modes of transport
- Perception based on the points mentioned above, projects an image in a tourists mind and is one of the main reasons that medical tourism forms only 2% of the total tourism market in India compared o the 10-12% of the total tourism market in Thailand and 8-10% in Singapore.
All indicators are that medical tourism is set to grow and will lead to additional inflows into India. States such as Kerala have already capitalized on this trends and in terms of wellness tourism, Kerala is the largest provider of wellness tourism market in India. It is also the largest exporter of Ayurvedic products in the country. Through its careful promotion of Ayurveda, spas and natural herbal treatments, the state currently sets an example for other states who have not succeeded to tap into this market.
Other markets such as Mysore and Coimbatore are also growing. The metro’s too remain key however, methods of private hospitals (and associated cost impact) is leading to a shift in demand towards the Tier1 cities.
As connectivity improves, airfares trend lower and also as demographics further work in India’s favour, medical tourism is set to grow significantly in the years to come .