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Medical Tourism ~ The Indian Angle

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Mohan is amongst the thousands of software professionals in USA which have their origins from India. He usually visits his country and hometown once a year. He has ageing parents back home who possess manifold healthcare demands as the age levitates. With changing trends in healthcare and growing service industry, Mohan avails the joint benefits of leisure, home visit and availing medical facilities together. Unlike, Mohan several people who are non-residents as well as residents of USA and other neighboring countries of Asia; require constant medical attention for themselves and their families. These travellers who seek non-emergency medical benefits from the nations overseas are termed in the present scenario as medical tourists.

In a review report of medical tourism industry by Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions, it was assessed that the number of American patients seeking healthcare abroad was around 750,000 in 2007. A notable increase has been seen further down the years and it was observed that approximately more than 200,000 to half a million Americans travelled out of the country for medical procedures.

Medical tourism has augmented partly because of increasing healthcare costs in developed countries, cross-border medical training and persistent air travel. The growth of medical tourism industry is marked globally, encompassing around 50 countries in all continents. The leadership is shown by several Asian countries like India, Singapore and Thailand. South and Southeast regions of Asia attract around more than a million medical travellers per year.

These three countries collectively comprise of approximately more than 90% of the medical tourism market share in Asia, and have invested heavily in their healthcare infrastructures to meet the increased demand for accredited medical care through first-class facilities. Asia in itself generates revenues in billions and consists of 12.7% of the global market. A growth rate of 17.6% and 23% of revenue growth is expected by 2012. The coalescing of quality healthcare at affordable costs and leisure tourism makes Asia one of the top choice destinations for medical tourists.


One of the extensively growing sectors in India is accounted as medical tourism and is likely to witness an annual growth rate of 30 %, making it a 9,500-crore industry by 2015. The prospects of international travel to access quality medical care at affordable costs and without insurance barriers makes India one of the most appealing destinations for population abroad.

Availability of alternative medicine healthcare services, like Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Unani, etc. makes it all much more appealing. Also, combining the medical travel with pleasure trip adds to the appeal.  Estimates are that approximately 150,000 of people travel to India for low-priced healthcare procedures every year. The influx of foreign tourists in India have amplified to greater levels as India continues to be a favoured tourist destination for leisure, as well as business travel. The Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) have increased at a CAGR of 8.1% between 2004 and 2009.

The increased business travel is accounted to the growing economy; the great leap in the service industry over the past few years has led to increased corporate spending on business travel.

Also, there has been witnessed a hike in inbound tourist arrivals, which can be subjected to the availability of well-equipped and managed hospital infrastructure and the low cost of treatment in India, compared to the developed countries. The rate of inbound tourist arrivals is expected to rise at 29% to reach U.S. $ 2.4 billion by 2012.

Added advantage is provided by the uplifting government policies in India. The government led initiatives and campaigns such as Incredible India!, Colors of India, Atithi Devo Bhavah and the Wellness Campaign for promoting the Indian tourism and hospitality industry adds to the creation of appeal amongst the foreign tourists.

The Indian hotel industry remains a direct beneficiary of economic growth and of the growth in the tourism industry. There has been recorded a high demand for quality rooms, At present, the demand exceeds the supply, it has been marked the demand for hotel rooms is about 240,000 rooms, while the current supply of hotel rooms is around 100,000.

Many healthcare organizations providing top most care to the medical tourists and being most opted include Apollo Group of Hospitals, Fortis Group of Hospitals and other major healthcare setups and diagnostic centres.


India is one of the fastest-growing travel and tourism markets in the world. The demand for travel and tourism is expected to reach U.S. $ 431.7 billion (INR 24,252.4 billion) by 2020. According to an industry intelligence report, India’s share in the global medical tourism industry will reach around three percent by the end of 2013. The December 2010 report — titled “Booming Medical Tourism in India” – says that the industry should generate revenues of around U.S. $3 billion by 2013.

The industry can be considered of being in its growth stage and is expected to grow 30 % annually till 2015. It is expected that CAGR (compound annual growth rates) in revenue in 2011-13 will be 26%. In terms of medical tourists, the number can reach approximately 1.3 million by 2013 at a CAGR of 19%. India is preparing for this expected growth and thus trying not to encounter in future any supply-side constraints.

Around 80% of foreign tourist arrivals in India are from the neighboring countries and from Iraq, Afghanistan, the former Soviet Union, etc and now increasingly from Africa.


The drivers for this credible growth of Indian medical tourism industry can be accounted to several emerging trends which fuel the demand for medical tourism.

  • Domestic Tourism is at its peak, with increase in affordability and affinity for leisure travel, the domestic tourism has resulted into an enormous growth of almost 15% per year.
  • India remains one of the most attractive destinations to foreign tourists, as it has a plethora of tourism destinations and quality care providing healthcare facilities at low costs. One gets to combine the leisure trip and medical travel together.
  • With globalization and economic growth, the middle class populace in India has grown more affluent and this has resulted into an affordable outbound travel. The ease of access and availability of attractive tour packages boost the outbound leisure travel from India.
  • Constant Up-gradation and Augmentation of tourism infrastructure and facilities, by the Ministry of Tourism at important tourist destinations, has helped in improving the accessibility to these places. In addition, better infrastructure like new airports in various cities and reduced fares of air travel improve connectivity between major cities in the country and result in creation of increased demand for hotels.
  • Low and affordable cost of surgeries, diagnostics, treatment, and medicines in India, make it a destination to be looked at by the non-insured foreign citizens. Also, there has been noted increased visits for availing the facilities of cosmetic surgeries, dental surgeries and other minor or non medical emergency surgeries which are not covered under the insurance. This is backed up by the advanced technology usage and available expertise of qualified and certified healthcare professionals in India. The outpatient surgeries comprise of almost 75% of medical tourism procedures and, for many of these, consumer out-of-pocket payments are high, the option of medical tourism turns out to be more attractive.
  • With increased acceptance by employers and health plans targeting commercial populations make it easier for the tourists to access healthcare outside the vicinity of their own country. These on the other side benefit the employers to save on costs/ premiums to insurance companies.
  • Here for Better: With more and more healthcare facilities in India getting accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI), the healthcare industry’s official accreditation institution for monitoring the quality of care provision. This has also accounted to an increase in number of foreign tourist arrivals for accessing medical care.
  • There are also Certified Facilitators, which have business relations with hospitals in India and abroad. They provide assistance to the medical/healthcare facility seekers and help them get the best healthcare packages that suit their needs.

In conclusion, it can be said that with growing needs of healthcare and rising costs worldwide, one needs to find out a cost effective and non-quality compromising solution to the same. Medical tourism proves to be one of the robust solutions. In India, the medical tourism industry is still young and is exploring its nascent growth phases. Every industry comes with its own pros and cons. Not all medical care could be sought while travelling from one country to another.

Yet, much of the non emergency care could be sought after while having a leisure trip. Affordable cost is an added advantage. It is expected that in years to come, with India emerging as a preferred destination for medical treatment, medical tourism in the country is expected to have a dramatic growth and this would be backed up by investments in healthcare sector inclusive of pharmaceutical and healthcare technology and by investments in tourism and hospitality industry.

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. – Miriam Beard.

About the Author

Bhawana Sahu is the Business Development Manager and is involved inTele-radiology & Diagnostic Imaging for NM Medical in Mumbai. She is experienced in Business Development for Clinical Research, HR, and Administration (Diagnostic Imaging), Integrated Sales, Branding & Direct Marketing Activities, Strategic Partnership & Alliances.

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