Touting, harassing foreigners,lack of infrastructure hit India's medical tourism

Touting, harassing foreigners,lack of infrastructure hit India's medical tourism

India has become a favourite medical tourism destination for people from the West over the years due to availability of cost-effective treatment but touts, harassment of foreigners and lack of adequate infrastructure are dampening its growth prospects.

Lack of cleanliness and foreigners’ dwindling trust in many of the hospitals are also posing threats to medical and wellness tourism in the country, notwithstanding the combination of the cost-effective treatments with opportunity to visit famous tourist spots as an incentive by the tourism service providers and other players in the industry.

Costlier countries surge

As a result, countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are surging ahead, offering a variety of better medical tourism offer to foreigners, though they are costlier than those available in India in many ways, according to a joint report by the Institute of Cost Accountants of India (ICAI) and PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, released here at a summit on Thursday.

“Touting and harassment of foreign tourists are creating negative brand perception. Indian hospitals are still facing lack of trust of foreign tourists. These are some of the challenges which need to be addressed.

India has enormous potential for growth in medical and wellness tourism,” chief marketing officer of French Touch Travel said at the summit. Besides the US, European Union countries, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Australia, Hong Kong, Maldives, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Turkey, Pakistan and West Asia are major medical tourist markets for India.

In India, states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and New Delhi have emerged as preferred medical and wellness tourist destinations over the last 10 years.

According to ICAI-PHD chamber’s report, medical tourists from US, European Union countries and Canada travel to India specially for cardiac and orthopedic treatments because of the lower costs.

For example, a knee replacement costs USD 35,000 in the US but just USD 6,600 USD. In the US, the cost of heart-valve replacement is USD 1,75,000 USD. In India, it is USD 9,500 USD.

“Significant cost differences exist between the UK, the US, Costa Rica, Singapore and India when it comes to medical treatment. India is not only cheaper but also the waiting time is almost nil,” the report said.

The report highlighted the need to improve the hospital infrastructure and facility to attract more foreign medical tourists in India, noting that inflow of medical tourists which stood at 3 lakh in 2009 rose to 8.5 lakh in 2011 and is expected to touch 32 lakh by the end of 2015.

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