Growing at the rate of 25 per cent a year, medical tourism is on track to become a two billion dollars industry in another five years.
An estimated 1,50,000 patients arrived in 2004 from across the globe from USA, UK, Middle East, Africa and SAARC countries for medical treatment in India, according to official figures.
In the same year, medical tourism was a 333 million dollar strong market and the ministry said given its growth rate of 25 per cent it will emerge as a two billion dollars market in 2012.
"A patient opting for medical tourism not only gets the best medical treatment the Indian doctors have to offer, but also as a post-treatment fare, he or she gets to see the best of India's destinations," Leena Nandan, Joint Secretary (Tourism), said.
The tourism ministry is also giving a big push to medical tourism highlighting its low-cost advantages. Nandan said, "Just like the IT expertise of India, the medical expertise of country too is well recognised abroad. And eventually this too translates into tourism in India."
Tourism ministry sources said the potential of medical tourism is borne out of the fact that there has been an increase of 20 per cent of arrivals of tourists to avail medical treatment in the country.
As part of measures taken by the government to promote this segment is introduction of medical visa which is issued for a specific purpose to such foreign tourists.
This visa is initially issued to a patient with a companion for a period of one year and can be extended upto three years after fulfilling certain conditions and recommendations from the accredited medical authorities.
In 'New York Times Travel Show' in February this year this segment was promoted through a session organised by India Tourism Office, New York, Indian High Commission and CII to promote Indian healthcare services and invite investment in India.
The Ministry also participated at the World Travel Mart(WTM) 2006 in London in November last year and at International Tourism Bourse (ITB) at Berlin in March this year to promote India in a big way as the new emerging healthcare destination and disseminate information on "Medical Value Travel."
Ministry sources said the response was positive. A lot of queries were generated from the potential tourists, medical tourism companies, health insurance companies, travel and tour operators.