Local estimates suggest that the number of international patients to India went down by around 80% in 2020, however the Indian government is banking on the sector to lead a revival of inbound international travel. It is forming a working group to explore the possibilities of linking Indian hospitals, wellness centres and Ayurveda clinics with foreign insurers to boost medical tourism.
Until the lockdown curtailed international travel, Mumbai was one of the major hubs for medical tourism in India. City hospitals saw a regular stream of foreign patients for investigations, diagnoses and treatment, including chemotherapy.
There is optimism however. Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital in Powai, while not receiving any international patients since March 2020, is hopeful that soon the situation will improve.
In Kerala, in early 2020, hospitals and health tourism resorts treated European patients who had often booked months in advance. While this dwindled to zero during lockdown, Kerala remains a global and expanding Ayurveda centre, with frontline hospitals like Ayurveda Yoga Villa bringing in medical tourists and earning foreign exchange for the country.
Kerala expects the sector to bloom again in 2021 provided the national and state governments give a significant push to the industry and make it easier to do business. It believes that as the vaccine is rolled out across European nations, patients should start flying in by the middle of 2021.
The government is forming a working group to explore the possibilities of linking Indian hospitals, wellness centres and Ayurveda clinics with foreign insurers to boost medical tourism in India. The aim is to ensure that foreign nationals seeking medical treatment in India can arrive in the country with their own insurance, which would be recognised by all health centres. This will be especially helpful for those arriving from Iraq or Southeast Asian countries.
The ministry has recommended that foreign tourists visiting India be offered attractively priced COVID-19 insurance covers as part of the plans to revive the sector.