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Medical & Wellness Tourism Policy on the Cards

The central Government intends to introduce a national medical & wellness tourism policy next year, said Satyajeet Rajan, Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India. “Some interventions by the Ministry of Tourism to facilitate medical value travel to India have been pathbreaking, such as the introduction of e-medical visas ranging from 60 days to 6 months and doing away with the requirement for foreign patients to report to FRROs. We are going to set up six facilitation enters in Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Delhi, and Goa by January next yearto cater to medical tourists. We are also focusing on promoting homestays for medical tourists to bring down their cost of stay in India. I congratulate the Karnataka Government for its medical and wellness tourism policy. We will also like to bring out a similar policy at the Central Government level next year,” he said at the inauguration of global summit on medical value travel jointly organised by FICCI; Dept. of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Govt. of India; and Service Export Promotion Council (SEPC) at Bengaluru.

Medical value travel (MVT) has emerged as one of the fastest growing segments of Indian tourism industry. According to a FICCI-IMS report, over 500,000 foreign patients seek treatment in India each year, making the country a key medical tourism destination in Asia. However, coordinated efforts are required by key stakeholders to turn India into “The Provider to the World” and accelerate MVT growth from the existing 15% to 25%. Foreign patients mostly come to India for heart surgery, knee transplant, cosmetic surgery and dental care, as the cost of treatment here is considered the lowest in Asia, much lower than Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Several panel discussions are taking place at the summit, with more than 40 speakers sharing their views on themes like AYUSH: The Indian System of Medicine for Healing and Rejuvenation; Clinical Excellence in Medical Care: Destination India; Leveraging Technology for Diagnosis, Treatment & Aftercare; Health Insurance – A Key Enabler for high-end Tertiary Care; and Karnataka: An Emerging Destination for Medical Value Travel.

Welcoming the delegates, Gaurav Gupta, Principal Secretary, Dept of IT, Biotechnology & Tourism, Govt. of Karnataka, said “India is a key medical value travel destination in Asia, with more than 500,000 foreign patients seeking treatment. It can be a 9 billion opportunity by 2020. Karnataka holds immense potential in wellness and medical tourism. Bangalore, Mysore and Mangalore have some of the best hospitals in Asia, while Udipi, Gokarna, Mysore and Bijapur have developed as wellness destinations. The state boasts of direct connectivity with world capitals, Eastern healthcare wisdom and expertise in Western medicine. There are 19 NABH accredited hospitals in Bengaluru alone. Karnataka is home to 56 medical colleges and offers the highest number of MBBS seats in India. Considering this, we are shortly going to come out with a medical and wellness tourism policy for Karnataka. It proposes to set up a marketing fund for promoting the state as a MVT destination and give financial assistance to entrepreneurs for wellness tourism.”

Dr Shalini Rajneesh, Principal Secretary, Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of Karnataka said, “In Karnataka, we have the best of natural ambience for good health and it can cure worst of illnesses. The Govt. of Karnataka is the first in the country to bring out an integrated health policy, trying to integrate allopathy with AYUSH. Karnataka is well positioned to benefit from the medical value travel opportunity. It has 26,000 modern clinics and hospitals in the private sector, in addition to 40,000 AYUSH practitioners. We also have 30,000 traditional healers who, though not well known globally, have as many foreign clients as Indian ones! They have effectively provided healing to thousands of people worldwide which has been effective in cases where allopathy has no answer. On an average, one-third of the income of a person anywhere in the world gets spent on healthcare, which offers a huge opportunity for the Indian medical tourism sector. The challenge is how best we can offer health and wellness as a package to the best satisfaction of clients.”

In her Inaugural Address, Rita Teaotia, Secretary, Dept of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, GoI said, “Medical value travel is a win-win for patients and providers – it creates jobs and encourages interchange of cultures across borders while fulfilling healthcare needs of people. As the focus on medical tourism shifts to Asia, India has emerged as one of the fastest growing markets. The size of the Indian medical value travel industry is currently USD 3 billion, but the scale of the entire Indian healthcare industry is USD 110 billion. This is a huge base which can support quality and affordability of our medical tourism proposition. The depth of the Indian healthcare sector is unique. Its USP in medical value tourism has three elements: quality, affordability and scale. AYUSH also sets us apart from other medical tourism destinations. We are now focusing on the global acceptance of Ayurveda on the lines of Chinese medicine. Dental treatment and medical research are other areas with enormous potential.”

A FICCI – QuintilesIMS knowledge paper on ‘Medical Tourism in India’ was released during the event, highlighting the progress made to ensure the accelerated growth of MVT in the country and the way forward. The Ministry of commerce and Industry, Govt. of India, along with SEPC today launched a healthcare portal www.indiahealthcaretourism.com in three langauges – Arabic, Russian and French, which provides comprehensive information to medical travelers.

 

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