FTA for medical purposes sees steep rise

Foreign tourist arrival (FTA) to India for medical purposes rose to more than 420,000 in 2016, from around 180,000 in 2014; this is supported by India’s vast growing affordable and advanced healthcare sector

April 5, 2018

India’s healthcare industry, well known for being highly advanced and cost-effective, is one of the fastest growing sectors and in the coming decade it is expected to reach US$275 billion

Medical treatment in India is touted to see steady development amid plans to increase total national health expenditure to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2025 from the current 1.15 per cent

Foreign tourist traffic has also been boosted by the growing global popularity of India’s traditional medicine and wellness services and products promoted by the Ministry of AYUSH

A National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board has been constituted under the chairmanship of the Minister for Tourism to provide a dedicated framework for medical and wellness tourism

Foreign tourist arrivals into India for medical purposes has increased sharply over the past years, the country’s junior minister for tourism, KJ Alphons, told the lower house of the Parliament on April 2nd. While 184,298 people arrived in India in 2014 for treatment purposes, the number went up to 427,014 in 2016. India’s healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing sectors and in the coming decade it is expected to reach US$275 billion. The sector has gained global reputation for being highly advanced and cost-effective, and competes with the world’s leading medical treatment destinations in Europe and North America. Medical treatment infrastructure in India is touted to see steady development amid the Government’s plan to increase the total health expenditure to 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 from the current 1.15 per cent.

Foreign traffic has also been boosted by the growing global popularity of India’s traditional medicine and wellness services and products promoted by the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH). The ministry has sought to bring the sector at par with conventional medicine and treatment practices in terms of regulations, safety standards and best practices. India’s tourism ministry has recognized medical and wellness tourism as niche tourism products and offers various facilities as given below to promote India as a preferred destination as well as facilitate the visit of medical tourists to the country:

  1. The Government offers financial support for marketing purposes and for organising medical tourism promotion shows as well as events and seminars to accredited service providers.
  2. Medical and medical attendant visas have been introduced to ease the travel process of medical tourists. The e-tourist visa regime has also been expanded to include medical visits.
  3. It has been decided to set up facilitation counters at the major airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bengaluru for tourists arriving on Medical Visas.

Apart from the above, the Department of Commerce and Services Export Promotion Council (SEPC) has launched a healthcare portal – India Healthcare Tourism – in English, Arabic, Russian and French languages as a single source platform for providing comprehensive information to medical travellers on the top healthcare institutions in the country.

A National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board has also been constituted under the chairmanship of the Minister for Tourism to provide a dedicated institutional framework to promote medical and wellness tourism. The Board has members from the Ministries of Health, Commerce, External Affairs, AYUSH, Home Affairs, the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) as well as representatives from the major chambers of commerce, hospitals and independent experts in the field of medicine and wellness. The board has formed sub-committees on visa issues, accreditation and standards and marketing and promotion. The Ministry of Tourism collates data regarding the arrivals on Medical and Medical Attendant visas provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs.