India fine-tunes strategy to scale up medical tourism

MedicineIndia is looking to double the size of its medical tourism industry to $6 billion, with the tourism ministry unveiling new guidelines to attract a larger share of global medical tourists.

The guideline touches upon a gamut of issues that would help coordinate the various facets and tap into the vast hidden potential of medical tourism in India.

Speaking at the inauguration of Medical & Wellness Tourism Summit-2014, on July 25, Mr. Parvez Dewan, secretary of ministry of tourism, said these incentives would target tour operators, market facilitators and NGOs for the promotion of eco-tourism.

The governments will also systematise the traditional medicines industry, manufactured in India under trademark of Ayurveda, Unani. These medicines will have to conform to the prescriptions, provided under the World Health Organization (WHO), said Nilanjan Sanyal, secretary, Department of Ayush in Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. He added that government would encourage emerging brands in hospitality and super critical medical facilities sector to integrate traditional services in their existing infrastructure.

In the last decade India has positioned itself as a hub of medical tourism. Building on the solid foundation of the availability of skilled medical professional staff, the industry has been growing as an affordable alternative to medical treatment in Europe or the US.

According to a report by an industry-based lobby, Punjab Haryana Delhi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Indian medical tourism industry is expected to reach $6 billion by 2018, double the current size.

In its 2014 election manifesto the Bharatiya Janata Party promised to build 50 tourism circuits, including a medical circuit, which will connect hubs of modern medicine and Ayurveda.

This new push to medical tourism will be welcomed by an industry which still sees a very limited share of global medical tourists. In 2013, only one per cent (1.2 million patients in 2012) of global medical tourists came to India.

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