India currently holds around 18% of the global medical tourism market. According to Ministry of Tourism’s figures, medical tourism in India has the potential to cross the $ 9 bn-mark, accounting for 20% of the global market share by 2020.

India is now touted as one of Asia’s fastest growing medical tourism destinations. Specialized healthcare professionals, state of the art facilities, high quality medical training, cost competitiveness and the rise of holistic and alternate healing practices developed from AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) have given rise to India’s position in the global medical tourism industry. Low living costs, ease of communication and a strong pharmaceutical footprint have also been key catalysts of this evolution. There is an increasing influx of patients from South Asian countries, the Middle East and Africa who visit India for healthcare needs such as cancer treatments, transplants and cardiac surgeries. According to a report by FICCI and IMS Health, over 500,000 foreign patients seek treatment in India each year. Visit our sectors page to know more about Healthcare Industry and Tourism & Hospitality Industry in India.

Ministry of Tourism has taken various steps to boost medical tourism in the country, like relaxing the e-visa norms for medical visits. The Government launched e-tourist visas in 2014 to ease the visa regime in the country, following which 'Medical and Medical Attendant Visa' was introduced for medical tourists. The medical visa offers multiple entry and long term stay for medical care. Further, the Government is actively mandating accreditation for wellness centers and Medical Value Travel (MVT) facilitators. In an effort to boost the capacity of qualified health professionals and promote affordable medical education, the Union cabinet recently approved the establishment of 75 new medical colleges in the country, which shall lead to the creation of over 15,000 MBBS seats in India.

In addition, the rise of medical tourism in India can also be significantly attributed to the development of the private health care system. Neoliberal policies have paved the way for the rapid privatization of the medical care ecosystem in India, with competent privately-owned hospitals, medical education and institutions increasing their presence across the country. The country’s top private hospitals are seeking international accreditations and formulating strategic partnerships with global agencies to instill a sense of confidence amongst foreign patients to undergo medical treatments in relatively unfamiliar settings.

The progress of this segment has not only contributed towards a sharp revenue upsurge for the medical sector, but also to that of hotels, restaurants and tourist hot spots. The implications and opportunities of medical tourism in India also extend to the financers of health services, marketers of medical tourism and foreign investors to invest in Indian medical infrastructure and multi-specialty hospitals.

The international medical tourism market is slated to emerge significantly in the next few years, which implies a stronger competition among destinations for compatible healthcare services, strategic marketing packages and more sophisticated implementation of information technology in the healthcare and tourism space. The interconnections (political, economic, social and technological) in international medical tourism hubs have allowed for new opportunities in health care delivery and regulation. Some of these developments include favorable regulatory regimes (example), safety policies, recognition of transnational disease patterns and successful interlinkages with sectors such as aviation to enable factors like low-cost airfares to cater to growing patient mobility.

Despite India’s insistent strides in this industry, it shall have to combine its skills and cost advantage with adequate medical infrastructure and availability of specialists to compete with prime international tourism destinations such as Singapore, Thailand and Cuba.

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