National Medical & Wellness Tourism Promotion Board holds its first meeting
Medical tourism has been a major growth sector globally. The exorbitant healthcare costs in the affluent Western countries have made healthcare out of reach for even their citizens. Consequently, they are now looking beyond their borders to seek medical treatment.
India has emerged as a prime destination in the last few years for people across the globe in need of medical treatment. Affordability, high quality healthcare, availability of specialist treatment and advanced technologies are just a few reasons that have made India a much sought after destination. Furthermore, the diversity of its flora and fauna, its natural beauty including a rich and vibrant cultural heritage has already put India on the tourist map.
Tourism also contributes a fair share to the economy of a country. Therefore, the government has important roles to play in the development and refinement of medical tourism in India, not only as a regulator but also as a facilitator. In view of this, the government of India has constituted a Medical and Wellness Tourism Board as a dedicated institution to guide the promotion and positioning of India as a competent and credible medical and wellness tourism destination.
Dr Mahesh Sharma, Union Minister of State (I/C) for Tourism & Culture & Civil Aviation chaired the first meeting of the “National Medical & Wellness Tourism Promotion Board”. The Board has representatives from Government Departments, Tourism & Hospitality sectors, Indian Medical Association and experts in various disciplines including Wellness and Yoga and other stakeholders.
It was decided that three Sub-Committees would be formed to look into issues such as Regulatory, Accreditation and Marketing. As chairman of the Board, Dr Mahesh Sharma said that the Board would function in an effective, responsible, and time bound manner to find solutions for immediate concerns in the efforts of health and tourism sector. He called upon the private sector to assume a leadership role in the medical and wellness tourism sector.
India’s competitive advantages lie in a large pool of highly-trained medical professionals, along with its cost competitiveness compared to other countries. But, rough edges in the delivery system need to be ironed out and glitches need to be removed. The need of the hour is greater number of accredited hospitals, easy visa regime and provision of linkages between the service provider and the end user. A Data Bank of available resources in the field of Medical and Wellness services in the country would be built up along with plans to disseminate this information to the source markets.
The Board decided to have a single responsible body which is visible, accessible and through which the various medical systems which are interconnected can be reached by all. The Board unanimously agreed that a dedicated and sustained campaign on Medical & Wellness Tourism in the source markets will result in substantially enhance medical tourist arrivals to the country which can be led only by Government interventions. It also agreed on integrating the services under Ayurveda, Yoga and other systems. The Government needs to address the issue of sensitization of service providers, particularly in the field of Wellness & Ayurveda.
This is the right time and a great opportunity to tap into the many advantages that India has to offer and develop and promote India as a hotspot in medical and wellness tourism.
Dr SS Agarwal Dr KK Aggarwal