One of the pioneers of medical tourism, India has lost ground to many of the new entrants into the medical tourism market. Complex rules and processes have slowed its progress.
For years, India has promoted medical tourism but many agencies, hospitals and local states compete with each other for the same business at prices so low they put off many Americans and European visitors. There has been little concerted marketing, while advertising has all been of the “high quality, very cheap, we do everything’ variety that is being replaced elsewhere with more sophisticated targeted marketing.
As a pioneer, lack of official help has partly been due to the state based nature of government and partly down to guestimates totally lacking any statistical basis, that they were getting one or two million medical tourists year – a figure that generated complacency. These bloated figures may have been due to simple mistranslation with English speaking people translating 1 lakh as 1 million, when it actually means 100,000. India’s tourism authorities have come up with new figures that suggest that in 2011, there will be between 85,000 and 100,000 medical tourists going to India. Putting these figures into perspective, India enjoys 5.6 million worldwide visitors each year.
India has carried out a series of road shows to promote medical tourism for specialized dental treatment, knee transplants, neurosurgery as well cosmetic surgery. So far this year 63,000 medical tourists have traveled to India for treatment says the tourism ministry, and it is expecting somewhere between 85,000 to 100,000 medical tourists by the end of the year; tourism to India is very seasonal and concentrated in certain months.
Despite growth in the medical tourism sector, India has faced tough challenges in last few years with competitive pricing from Malaysia and Singapore. So India arranged a series of road shows to promote medical tourism. In the last few months these shows took place in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the USA, England, Scotland, South Africa and Caribbean countries. The roadshows had presentations and one-to one business meetings between trade delegations from India and travel trade representatives in the respective countries.
According to the Ministry of Tourism
63,000 medical tourists arrived from Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, Denmark and the US in the first 6 months of 2011.The destinations of the roadshows and the source countries quoted, suggest that India has failed to convince Europeans to travel there for treatment.
Indian hospital groups have invested heavily in building or buying hospitals, partly with the potential of medical tourism in mind. But so far they have seen little return on their investment in India, often making more money from medical tourists when they have built of bought hospitals in other countries.
is aggressively expanding nationwide and Dr Pervez Ahmed, of Max Healthcare recently accepted that they are no longer just targeting patients from the US, UK and other Western nations, but also at patients from the SAARC
countries as the people of these nations do not have access to good quality healthcare; South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries include-Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Complex national and local regulations are putting off potential medical tourists. Tamil Nadu gets 150 medical tourists a month but tourism officials say they could get many more if regulations were relaxed. There is an increase in the number of foreigners going to Ahmedabad for medical treatment despite a procedure for police verification that required at least three visits to the police; and although this has been replaced by just one visit to the local police station before going home, medical tourists still have to download registration forms and submit them to the police through the hospital authorities. Any foreign national seeking medical treatment in the city has to register within 14 days after arrival, and report to the police at the special branch of the police commissioner’s office with a number of documents. These include proofs of their stay in the city, ailment for which treatment was sought, and documents from doctors, hospitals and hotels, among others. There seems a lack of understanding in India that Europeans and Americans will not put up with this unnecessarily bureaucratic, cumbersome and time consuming process-however cheap treatment is.