“During the early days of medical tourism, the attention was always given to developed countries” said Rita Teaotia, Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, addressing the third edition of Advantage Healthcare India 2017 summit. Attention has now shifted to Asia, and India is among the fastest growing medical tourism destinations in Asia.”
The medical tourism industry in India is currently estimated to be worth around $3 billion USD. A $6 billion rise in the value of the industry is a hugely optimistic estimate. However, India has seen a huge degree of interest from medical tourism across the globe recently.
The prospect of cost effective healthcare services has drawn medical tourists from countries whose own healthcare systems may be lacking. Examples include Kenya and Uganda, whose growing middle class are increasingly seeking medical treatment in India. However, even wealthier nations are seeing more people travel to India for treatment.
“Ayurveda has managed to catch the attention of many countries, especially European countries. The government will continue to focus on global acceptance of Ayurveda on the lines of Chinese medicine,” said Teaotia.
India has also followed up on a promise made by the External Affairs Ministry mark India’s Independence day to allow for more medical visas to be issued to Pakistani patients. Since then a number of medical visas have been issued, typically for extreme or urgently needed operations.
Many of these visas have been issued following high profile social media campaigns. For example, a visa was approved for a liver transplant for Pakistani national Azhar Hussain. Requests were made by his nephew Abbas, who describes himself as a liberal social activist and had been corresponding directly with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj via Twitter. In another high-profile example, Eman Ahmed Abd El Aty – an Egyptian national and the world’s heaviest woman – was treated in a Mumbai hospital earlier this year for her obesity.
High profile social media discussions such as this are an effective means of raising the profile of Indian medical tourism, advertising the industry via social media. Visas have been granted to many individuals from Pakistan recently despite constant tension between the two countries. Despite the high profile of these cases, the number of visas granted to Pakistani nationals remains by comparison to other nations.
India will seek to further raise the profile of its medical tourism industry following the AYUSH conference in Dubai. The first conference of its kind, officials within AYUSH have stated they wish to bring the practices from the realms of alternative medicine to the mainstream. Effective advertising at the conference could further provide boosts to the industry in India.