Health tourism is the next cash cow: CII
Kochi, Mar 26: Identifying Health Tourism as the next sector which will experience explosive growth in India after Information Technology and BPO, the CII estimates it could become a 2.3 billion US dollar business by 2012.
In a background paper released during a three-day international conference on health tourism which concluded here yesterday, the CII said, Indian healthcare sector made rapid strides in the past decade.
According to a study by the CII and McKinsey, medical tourism in India could become a 2.3 billion US dollar business by 2012.
''Medical tourism is the next major foreign exchange earner for India as an increasing number of patients, unwilling to accept long queues in Europe or high costs in the US, are travelling to the country to undergo various treatments,'' the paper said.
The new-generation, super-speciality hospitals in India offered world-class healthcare facilities that cost substantially less than those in the developed countries.
The total cost, including airfare, hospital expenses, hotel accommodation and the added tourism experience, worked out much less than the cost of surgery alone in many countries, it said.
For instance, a heart surgery which costs 30,000 US dollar in the US, could be done for only 8,000 US dollar in India. The cost difference for dental treatments was seven to eight times while for opthalmic procedures it was eight to ten times.
Cosmetic surgery, which was becoming increasingly popular among the Americans, but was not covered by insurance companies there, was another area where Indian doctors scored with their expertise.
Some of the other areas in which Indian hospitals could attract patients were cardiothoracic, neurology, gastrointestinal, orthopaedic, renal, obstetric, ENT and tumour removal.
While other Asian countries such as Thailand and Singapore were already attacting hundreds of thousands of medical tourists every year, India could do better in view of the expertise of medical professionals, fast improving equipment, nursing facilities and cost-effective packages.
The country also offered holistic medicinal services with its well developed base in ayurveda, yoga and meditation, the CII added.
Among the Indian states, Kerala was specially well poised to attract medical tourists, given its ''global superbrand of tourism'' combined with state-of-the-art medical facilties.
The large pool of non-resident Keralites, who often travel back home for medical treatment, were also acting as unofficial ambassadors for the medical tourism industry, especially in the West Asia.
Quick to realise the potential of this growing sector, the Kerala Government has declared 2006 as the 'Kerala Health Tourism Year'.
The hosting of the international conference, in collaboration with the CII, was among the ambitious plans the state has to promote itself as a destination for tourists, who could gaze at the tranquil backwaters even as a dentist pulls off their teeth.