A joint report by the Institute of Cost Accountants of India (ICAI) and PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry into Indian medical tourism suggests why India is losing out to rivals who charge more.
As a pioneer in medical tourism India should be a market leader, but despite offering low cost treatment, has failed for years to attract customers in numbers anything like rivals have. Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are surging ahead, with a more attractive medical tourism offer to foreigners, though they are costlier than India.
The report lists key reasons:
- Touting and harassment of foreign tourists create a negative perception of India.
- Lack of adequate infrastructure.
- Lack of cleanliness
- Foreigners’ dwindling trust in many of the hospitals.
These are the same problems that other reports have highlighted, but they came from overseas so led to a war of words between Indian doctors and the report providers, even to claims that ‘It was a Western plot to damage Indian medical tourism”
The report mirrors an Indian government report made three years ago which clarified that actual inbound numbers were far fewer than the millions often claimed.
While the Indian government has tried to improve hospital quality and is finally preparing to promote Indian medical tourism, the latest report highlights that global marketing and national accreditation schemes do little more than paper over structural cracks in the system.
The report and promoters of India know they have potential but unless the challenges are addressed, India will lose custom to countries that treat medical tourists as welcome guests. The structural problems are outside of what the local medical tourism industry can do.
The bottom line is that to attract more foreign medical tourists in India, the hospital and country infrastructure both need great improvement, and the way that tourists in India are harassed in the street needs to stop. But neither problems are simple as it is more about the social and political structure of the country, than cosmetic fixes.