India is emerging as a powerful magnet for medical tourists from around the globe. By medical tourists, it is meant people travelling to foreign countries in search for cheaper and high quality medical treatment.

Medical tourism is also referred to as wellness tourism or health tourism. In this, medical tourists travel abroad to seek dental, surgical, and medical care as well as to explore tourist attractions there. The medical tourism of India is poised to be the next crown jewel in the Indian economy like Information Technology.

Here are a few trends in medical tourism in India:

  • High value:

The industry for medical tourism in India is expected to touch $6 billion by 2018. This sector has been a key sector for over a decade. Powerful pharmaceutical industry advanced medical insurance service, quality health care and cheap cost of travel are factors responsible for India becoming a popular destination for medical tourists. India plays host to millions of medical tourist from both advanced countries like U.S., Canada, and Europe as well as also from neighbours like Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.

The other stakeholders in this sector are tourism players from hotels to tour operators to super specialty hospitals. Major players like Apollo, Wockhardt, Tata, Max, and Fortis have designed top quality hospitals that collaborate with tourism services.

  • Attractive features:

The main factor attracting medical tourists to India is the cost advantage. For instance, a cardiac by-pass surgery costs around $140,000 without including insurance. The same procedure costs only $7000 in India. Procedures like gastric bypass, knee, and hip replacement, cosmetic surgery like face-lift are much more affordable in India than elsewhere, even if you factor in accommodation and travel costs. Elective cosmetic procedures are not covered by insurance in the West.

India has also top quality facilities for cardiac and paediatric surgery which are on par with services available in the developed world. Indian hospitals are careful about the quality perception of medical tourists. Many of them adhere to standards like FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and JCA (Joint Commission Accreditation) to give confidence to medical tourists.

Indian hospitals offer top class medical facilities and services of well trained doctors and nurses, thus attracting medical tourists. Diagnostic services and surgical procedures are on par with the best in the world. The cherry on the cake is the rock bottom, low cost of medical care.

Another attractive feature about India as a medical tourism destination is the availability of alternative systems of treatment like Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Unani, Yoga, Siddha etc. These systems of medicine provide a competitive edge to India over other major medical tourism destinations like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea etc.

  • Top destinations:

Based on statistics released by the government in 2010, over 50% of medical tourists headed to mainly three Indian states of Delhi, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. This is because of high quality of medical care, top class hotels, and proliferation of tourism centres. These places provide a total package of rejuvenation from medical care to recovery in attractive, serene destinations.

The future of medical tourism in India depends on the pro-active role of the government to build up infrastructure, give incentives for medical equipment, ease visa restrictions for medical tourists, and support the tourism industry.