New Delhi: Dr Mahesh Sharma, union minister of state for tourism (independent charge), on Thursday acknowledged the need for a separate body to dedicate efforts to boost medical tourism.
This, he felt, was essential given the high growth potential of medical tourism. No other sector is growing at a rate of 30 per cent, he said while addressing the 11th India Health Summit organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here on Thursday.
Dr Sharma said medical tourism as a sector will be propagated and promoted in all Indian tourism directorates and other fora.
Dr Sharma said that medical visa on ETA (electronic travel authority) was already being provided in SAARC countries and would soon be extended further.
The minister assured the medical fraternity of all possible help in realising the potential of medical tourism, according to a statement by CII.
He noted that Indian healthcare providers were providing quality par excellence at a fraction of the cost and that is what was attracting foreigners.
Describing cleanliness, security and hospitality as the key factors determining tourism, the minister informed that as part of the Swachh Bharat campaign, a huge cleanliness drive would be undertaken at all key tourist destinations, including hospitals. Similarly, for security purposes various schemes are being devised including a nationwide 24×7 helpline.
He felt that it was important to be aware of the image we are building on the world stage and only efforts by all stakeholders would ensure that the image is a positive one. In that regard, he felt that every satisfied medical tourist is a great ambassador for India back home.
Earlier, welcoming the minister, Dr Naresh Trehan, chairman, CII National Committee on Healthcare and chairman & managing director, Medanta-The Medicity, had pointed out the need for a collective effort to raise the image of healthcare in India.
The sector was valued at $3 billion and as many as 8.5 million patients. Dr Trehan informed that the sector was still growing at 20-30 per cent. This provided an exceptional opportunity both for the healthcare providers as well as the tourism sector. Contrary to other sectors, this was one area where India still had a 10-year advantage over China, he said.
Dr Trehan requested the minister to streamline the process of medical tourism visas and impress upon the diplomatic missions to be more sensitive and accommodative in this regard.