What do you call somebody who follows up a visit to the Taj Mahal with hip surgery? A medical tourist, and India is getting them in hordes.
A rising number of foreigners are taking advantage of India’s third-world rates for world-class service by combining healthcare with tourism. Several private hospitals are cashing in by offering healthcare-cum-tourism packages to foreigners. The packages include yoga holidays, trips to famous tourist spots and add-ons like airport-to-hospital-bed transfers and internet access.
<b1>While hospitals insist that their primary job is healthcare, they also act as “facilitators”. Anil Maini, president of corporate development at Delhi’s Apollo Hospital, said: “We have tied up with a leading travel agency to offer services like airport transfers, hotel bookings and for help with formalities at foreign resident registry offices. Besides, if patients demand post-operative vacations, we can put them on to the right people.”
Dr Ajay Thakker, CEO and chairman of Jupiter Hospital, an upcoming hospital-cum-hotel complex in Thane, said: “We have tied up with Welcome Sheraton Group for an 80-suite hotel attached to the hospital.
It will have facilities like wi-fi zones, a concierge desk for local transfers and sight-seeing. Many patients mix business with pleasure and our hotel partners would be able to arrange for post-operative vacations.”
Officials at PD Hinduja Hospital near Mahim, which treated 90 foreigners in the past year, said the packages are a hit. “We offer packages based on the patient’s needs. They may include local-sightseeing and post-operative vacations,” said Joy Chakraborty, deputy director of administration.
In 2004, over 1.5 lakh patients, mostly from Europe and the Middle East, came to India and the number is rising by 13 per cent annually, according to a study by the Confederation of Indian Industry and consultancy major McKinsey.
By 2012, the study estimates, India has the potential to become a Rs 5,000-10,000 crore medical tourism market.