The medical tourism market in India has seen a growth of 22-25% since 2014, driven by rising costs of medical treatment in developed countries and an increasing number of “medical tourists” heading for India. According to experts, India’s medical tourism industry is expected to grow from a $3 billion industry at present to a $8 billion industry by 2020. The number of “medical tourists” from across the globe to India has been rising. In 2013, only 56,000 people visited India on a “medical tourist visa”, whereas this figure was more than double in 2015, with over 134,000 people from different nations visiting India for medical treatment. In 2016, over 96,000 “medical tourists” had already visited India till June, according to data available with the Ministry of Tourism.

Swadeep Srivastava, Managing Partner and founder of India Virtual Hospital, a medical tourism start-up, said: “India is going to be the hub for medical tourism in the near future, according to a report of the Confederation of Indian Industry. The treatment quality in India is at par with first world countries and the cost for the same is one-tenth here. Highly experienced doctors speaking English and other foreign languages make it convenient for patients worldwide to come and avail medical treatment in India. India has plenty of multi-specialty hospitals with enough number of beds, which makes the waiting period negligible. There are constant and huge investments in development of technology and operative techniques. Recent advancements in the medical sector like robotic surgeries, radiation surgery or radio therapies with cyber knife options, transplant support systems, among other facilities, make India one of the most sought after destinations.”

The growth in medical tourism has also given rise to some medical tourism start-ups, like the India Virtual Hospital, that help patients from across the globe understand the medical sector in India, besides helping them with hospitals that offer the best packages, hotels, guidance and such other services.

Patients from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, the Middle East and African countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, constitute a major chunk of the “medical tourists” in India.

Specialised treatments related to cardiology, joint and hip replacement, spine surgeries, bariatric surgery, cancer, IVF, and transplant facilities are among the most sought after treatments here in India. Even gynaecology has been a sought after branch for patients from many developed nations. Many non-resident Indians come to India for their gynaecology treatment as the cost of such treatment here is one-fifth that of their country of residence.

Experts say India has also grown as a cosmetic and plastic surgery market in the past two years, with patients, especially from the Middle East, showing much interest for such treatments in India due to easy availability of such surgeries and low costs here. The Ministries of Health, External Affairs and Tourism and Culture are working together and extensively to boost the medical tourism market in India. The Centre has launched various schemes like introduction of facility of e-Tourist visas for citizens of 150 countries at 16 different airports across the country, including extension of visa-on-arrival facility for Japanese nationals; 24×7 toll free Multilingual Tourist Information Line, handling 10 different international languages, besides Hindi and English, and introduction of Medical Visa and Medical Attendant Visa as separate categories to facilitate entry of medical tourists, with a view to increasing India’s share in the world tourism market.

Manish Chandra, co-founder of Vaidam, a medical tourism start-up, told The Sunday Guardian: “We already had the potential and the Government of India is taking proactive steps to make this industry, neglected by previous governments, grow. The facilitation of e-visas has reduced hassles for patients and their attendants. The government is holding seminars, cross-country interactions and promoting India’s market. This government has streamlined the medical tourism industry, leading to its exponential growth in the past three years and the industry is only expected to grow further.”