More government help needed to build India’s medical travel sector

A ‘FICCI-EY Knowledge Paper on Medical Tourism in India‘ has been published by FICCI in association with Ernst & Young (EY). Its recommendations are not new and again suggest the need for more government help and for the various government bodies and agencies to act in a co-ordinated way to make India an attractive medical tourism destination.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) is a non-government, not-for-profit organisation which claims to be the voice of India’s business and industry, with 250,000 company members.

Their report on medical tourism concludes that infrastructure building, relaxing visa regulations and targeted outreach programmes would help in promoting medical tourism to India. Key points made in the report include:

  • The number of medical tourist arrivals using the medical visa has increased
  • 60% of medical tourists choose India from personal recommendation rather than any advertising or marketing
  • 95% of the medical tourists from Africa prefer travelling to Asia for medical treatment
  • There is a need to use targeted outreach programmes, including the ‘Heal in India’ campaign, as branding to attract patients from other countries
  • The Department of Commerce needs to help make the sector more organised by target, group-based streamlining of visa regulations without jeopardising the nation’s security. It could, for example, support ‘Mission Mode Projects’ (see below) with a dedicated implementing agency for effective co-ordination and implementation
  • The Heal in India campaign should focus on emerging countries to attract medical tourists

There are 44 ‘Mission Mode Projects’. These are individual projects within the National e-Governance Plan that focus on one aspect of electronic governance. ‘Mission mode’ implies that projects have clearly defined objectives, scopes, implementation timelines, milestones, measurable outcomes, and service levels.

There isn’t a Mission Mode Project on medical tourism, and Heal in India is as yet no more than a concept.

India, a country endowed with ancient cultural heritage and natural beauty, has always been an attractive tourist destination and has potential to become one of the leading medical tourism destinations in the world. The country has been attracting tourists for medical treatment in large numbers. Medical and medical attendant visa have been introduced for tourists travelling for medical purposes and the e-visa facility has been extended to medical tourists as well in the form of an e-medical visa.

The government has taken some initiatives to make India a more attractive destination for medical tourism, which includes setting up a National Medical & Wellness Tourism Board, part of the Ministry of Tourism. This works as an umbrella organisation that governs and promotes medical tourism in an organised manner. It has set up sub-committees to look into the issues relating to visa, accreditation and allied services and marketing and promotion of medical and wellness tourism. But despite being set up in 2016, and a few meetings, by 2019 there is no evidence of any output.