Booster shot for Indian medical tourism


The Indian tourism ministry is finalising a scheme where a medical tourist visiting India will be offered an additional treatment free. It aims to launch in April and continue through the rest of 2009. The scheme will be part of the schemes implemented by the government to increase foreign tourist arrivals in the backdrop of the global slowdown, and the drop in visitor numbers following the terrorist attacks of 2008.

The ministry is in advance discussion with major hospital chains including Apollo, Manipal, Moolchand, Fortis and Wockhardt to offer the complementary treatment.” Now, foreign medical tourists will be offered one additional treatment for free. Almost all major hospitals have expressed their interest in partnering with us,” said tourism secretary Sujit Banerjee.

A patient coming for a bypass surgery could be offered a complementary skin treatment or something similar according to the patient’s preference.

Foreign tourist and medical tourist numbers visiting India has been dropping since November. Arrivals picked up slightly in February, thanks to various promotional schemes launched by the government along with airlines, tour operators and hoteliers. Under the existing promotional scheme, a companion of a foreign tourist gets free air passage provided they fly with Jet Airways, Kingfisher or Air India. The tour package also provides extended stay in spas and hotels across the country. The measures are part of the government’s ‘Visit India 2009’ plan. The bookings under the proposed scheme beginning this month will continue till the end of the year.

The tourism ministry has set a target of doubling the number of foreign tourists arrivals to the country by the end of 2010. It has launched road shows in various source countries including US, UK, Canada and Australia to increase the number of visitors.

Whether the measures will work is debatable. If having a heart operation, you are unlikely to care about a free cosmetic treatment.

At a recent major health conference, Dr Naresh Trehan highlighted the importance of medical tourism, and India's potential for it. He also mentioned problem areas that are more vital than a two-for-one promotion. Areas that restrict the growth of medical tourism to India include hygiene, visa procedures, pollution, medical regulation and political unrest. Dr Trehan painted a picture of the potential, but warned that India had a long way to go to achieve success.



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