Need to promote dental tourism of India


Kerala has long considered ayurveda, backwaters and culture (ABC) as its USP.Dental specialists in the state now want to add letter D to it in an attempt to tap the potential of dental tourism. A group of dental surgeons have set up a `Dental Holiday Knowledge Centre’ in Fort Kochi, to promote the concept among tourists.
India, Singapore and Thailand account for 90% of the medical tourism in Asia. “India ranks far below Thailand in dental tourism even though cities like Kochi have the necessary infrastructure to provide exceptional dental care at much cheaper rates,” said Dr Seby Varghese, founder of Dentela Foundation and secretary of Indian Dental Association, Nedumbassery. According to the research undertaken by Sindhu Joseph, an assistant professor with Kannur University , who has specialised in tourism management, 24.5% of the total medical tourists visiting Kerala can be credited to dental tourism. “Around 40% of all medical tourists visiting Kerala also look for leisure. As of now, the leading source of information regarding dental service in the international market is word of mouth. If you exclude NRIs the figure is 24.5%,” said Sindhu.
“I came to India specifically to see my daughter, who was staying in Fort Kochi.She has had previous experience with Dr Seby Varghese. I need some work done on my front teeth so I took her word for it and visited his office”, said Deborah Moe, a tourist who visited Kochi from the US this year.
Dr Seby says dental tourism has not been given an adequate platform to promote itself. “Most promotional opportunities like travel mart are dominated by large medical corporations who only promote themselves,” said Dr Seby .

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He said dental tourism should be promoted like ayurveda. “In Thailand, dental tourism is uniquely promoted by the government. It has high online visibility and significant promotional presence in road shows and conventions. In Kochi, we have one of Asia’s leading dental lab facilities, which is catering not just to the market demands in Kochi but to foreign nations as well. We have the infrastructure, all we need is the promotion,” said Dr Seby .
Doctors say dental implants, tooth alignment and smile makeovers are the most frequently requested procedures. Getting dental implants done in Thailand can cost up to Rs 1 lakh, while the same can be done in Kochi for just Rs 55,000.
“The work I had done on my teeth was exceptional,” said Deborah.
The knowledge centre in Fort Kochi, which is set to open in October, will only admit clinics and centres that are approved by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH). “Ayurveda marred its reputation due to malpractices by a few institutions, we don’t want the same to happen to the dental health industry ,” said Dr Seby.

Chinese travelling more for medical tourism

The number of Chinese tourists who made outbound medical trips through one of China’s most popular travel agencies this year is up five times that of last year, Ctrip reports.

Two potential clients consider medical tourism travel options. [Photo:]

Two potential clients consider medical tourism travel options. [Photo:]

A report by the travel app and website is expecting 500,000 outbound medical trips to be made by Chinese tourists by the end of 2016.

Ctrip offers more than 300 medical tourism products in cooperation with 80 travel agencies.

The average expenditure of outbound medical tourism per capita reached more than 50,000 yuan (7,200 USD), ten times the average per capita spend of conventional tourism, and ranked second only after polar tourism.

The high quality of medical services abroad is the main lure for Chinese tourists. The top ten destinations for medical care are Japan, South Korea, the US, Taiwan, Germany, Singapore, Malaysia, Switzerland, Thailand and India.

Health checks, including early detection of possible cancers, accounts for half of all outbound medical trips, while plastic surgery trips are also popular among female tourists. Figures show that Chinese tourists made over 100,000 medical trips to South Korea this year, most of them were attracted by plastic surgery.

Residents of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Hangzhou and Shenzhen comprised the largest group of tourists seeking overseas medical care.

Jamaica to promote Medical Tourism

This, he said, is based on the ability to provide quality medical services at an affordable cost.

“Jamaica’s burgeoning dental sector provides services at relatively

lower cost for equal quality of care, and Jamaica’s diagnostic service

offers a range of imaging and blood services at a significantly

reduced cost,” he pointed out.

High Commissioner Ramocan was speaking at the UK launch of the

Montego Bay-based Zierlich International Dialysis Centre at the Jamaican

High Commission in London, recently.

In welcoming the facility, High Commissioner Ramocan said it will complement the efforts of the Government to provide quality health services for its nationals and visitors.

He noted that this project, and others, “show that the interest in Jamaica’s potential as a medical tourism destination is steadily rising”.

He said that in 2015 the clientele for health services made up eight per cent of the more than two million stopover visitors to the island.

In addition, the 2014 Medical Tourism Index ranked Jamaica as the second most attractive medical tourism destination.

Zierlich dialysis was established by André Nelson and Dainty Powell, second-generation British-Jamaicans, with the objective of providing professional, affordable, haemodialysis care in the Caribbean.

The centre, located at the GWest Medical Complex in Montego Bay, has been operational since July, providing service for the early detection of chronic kidney disease and ongoing support for patients living with the condition.

“This is welcome news for the many persons in Jamaica who are faced with the life-threatening health challenge,” said Ramocan.

The high commissioner commended Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) European Regional Manager Laurence Jones and his team for their role in supporting the establishment of the centre.

In attendance were Jamaica’s honorary consul in Birmingham, Wade Lyn; representatives of the national health service and the medical profession; as well as members of the UK diaspora.

The project will be officially launched in Jamaica on January 26.

Malaysia promoting Medical Tourism

The state government is keen on venturing into the medical tourism industry as it would contribute to the concerted campaign to promote Perak as a major tourist destination. State Health Committee chairman Datuk Mah Hang Soon said, however, much needs to be done before the initiative can be launched, as health tourism is interlinked with many other services and industries. “There are two private hospitals in Perak which are actively promoting medical tourism, namely Pantai Hospital and KPJ Healthcare Berhad here. “We are only focusing on private hospitals, since government hospitals (receive many) patients every day,” he said in a press conference after attending a monthly assembly at the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital here today. Mah added that government hospitals in the state are not yet ready to take part in medical tourism, since there is a lack of buildings and infrastructure to accommodate patients. “Not only that – facilities must be readily available and their quality, organisation and coordination (among highly-trained staff) must be superb,” he added.

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Iran’s Medical Tourism growing

Iran’s revenues from medical tourism have more than doubled over the last 12 months, according to the vice president of the Association for Development of Medical Tourism Services.

Speaking to the travel news website Safar, Mohammad Panahi added that revenues from health tourism were “around $1.2 billion last year”, stressing that Iran is slowly realizing its potential as a medical tourism hub in the region.

However, Panahi noted that there were no precise data on the number of medical tourists who visited Iran in 2016, which brings into question the source of the reported figure.

Financial Tribune was unable to corroborate the $1.2 billion revenue as relevant organizations were closed on Friday, which is the weekend in Iran.

Nevertheless, there is little reason to doubt that the country’s annual health tourism revenue is now well over the $400-500 million reported for several years.

By some accounts, the number of tourists traveling to Iran for advanced medical attention has grown by almost 40% in the past five years.

Tourism experts and economists agree that medical tourists spend up to three times more than the average leisure tourist, as healthcare costs more than leisure expenses.

Nonetheless, medical costs are considerably cheaper in Iran than in most other regional countries, which is key to attracting health tourists.

“The other factors are our quality services and state-of-the-art facilities,” Panahi said.

Neglected for years, health tourism was brought into the limelight following the election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013. Two years later, a council was formed with representatives of the health and foreign ministries, the Medical Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization to organize the country’s health tourism sector.

The Health Tourism Strategic Council has been able to instill discipline in the sector by regulating institutions operating in this field.

About 98 hospitals and 14 travel companies have so far been issued health tourism permits across the country.

Furthermore, Iran’s Tourism Development Association has been formed by the council to help attract investment and garner the support of government entities.

The association is also responsible for promoting authorized centers and introducing them to both Iranians and foreigners. It is expected to introduce health tourism service providers through a comprehensive online portal.

Iran’s ultimate goal is to earn around $25 billion a year through tourism by 2025, around $2.5 billion of which will come from medical tourism.

According to a report in 2016 by Big Market Research, the global medical tourism market is expected to reach $143 billion by 2022. It was reported in May that the number of tourists traveling to Iran for advanced medical services has grown by 40% in the past five years.

Goa Medical Tourism


Beaches, parties, shacks on the beach can make for a very alluring destination. Goa has been that and more for Indians as well as for thousands of foreigners around the world. It had been pretty smooth sailing for several years with numbers increasing every year but like all good things it never lasts. The last few years have witnessed a perceptible drop in the number of foreign tourists due to financial considerations. The Russian incursion into Ukraine and the resulting sanctions witnessed the strengthening of the dollar against the rouble. This increased the cost of the airfares resulting in a slump in Russian tourists to the State. Thankfully the domestic tourists kept coming in droves and saved the blushes of State officials.
It also led to some of the more perceptive people to question if this was going to be the template of the future. More importantly if other avenues like rural or medical tourism could be seriously explored. The idea of making Goa a stop for medical tourists has been circulating for well over a decade.
The Herald spoke to professionals in the medical field to gain an understanding of the challenges. Dr Deep Bhandare, orthopaedic who practices in Panjim and one who heads the Health Committee at the GCCI said serious attempts were made in the past and should be made because Goa has several advantages going for it. The doctor said many foreigners from the middle-east, Iran, Iraq, Africa and the CIS countries visited India for treatment. Goa, he said despite having the beaches, the general culture needed to ask itself what is it they were willing to offer those interested in coming here for medical assistance.
He said “What do we have to offer foreigners who may come here? Which hospital in the State is accredited to the National Accreditation Board for hospitals (NABH) to take care of them? Manipal is, Wockhardt has shut down, SMRC has some accreditation. So that’s the ground reality.”
He went on to say that specialised surgeries, kidney transplants, joint replacements, eye surgeries could only be done at Manipal and nowhere else. That was not a situation to be in if one wanted to promote the State as a medical tourism destination. The only foreigners doctors were treating in Goa these days were those who had met with an accident whilst in Goa as a tourist.
He felt it was important to create a complete health check package provide hip replacements, cardiac surgeries /procedures, offer them chemotherapies, eye surgeries etc. He felt it was important to develop such facilities. Collaborations with either hospitals in the target countries or a partnership with insurance companies to ensure it were a success. It was important for the state tourism department and the state government to work and ensure this aspect was highlighted during the road shows held abroad.
There were he said a lot of injured patients in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan who could be airlifted to Goa. This State he said had much to learn from Chennai, Pune, Delhi and Mumbai which had foreigners flying in and seeking medical help.
Ameya Velingkar of Classic Hospital smiled on hearing the word medical tourism. He said “It should have taken off a long time ago. It is that one business, we lost. Chennai is at the very peak in this business. Goa is beautiful, famous in the tourist trade, we have a wonderful culture and a large percentage of the population speak English. I have been trying to do it for over 5 years but the infrastructure is not being provided by the government. Let me explain. If a patent is sick and his visa is expiring, it is a tedious process to get it extended. Patients need to be helped. I have experienced these practical issues.”
Another issue he cited was the absence of direct flights to Goa. All the flights largely landed in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai. Despite these handicaps, he performed 10 knee replacements on patients from various countries of Africa, Iraq and Britain. Goa he said was also cheaper. A knee replacement here would cost Rs 2.5 lakh here whereas in Delhi it could go up to Rs 5.5 lakh.
Like many hospitals in their own way Sujoy Das of AV da Costa hospital gets one or two patients from Africa though at one point of time it was much more. He said everyone had tried with big hospitals even going to Africa but it required sustained effort. Today, middle easterners visit Mumbai and Delhi, Chennai was a favourite for Bangladeshis looking for liver transplants and other complicated surgeries. However till date the Europeans had not turned up.
Bossuet Afonso who practises in Campal was categorical when he said as long as medical care was not standardised, the State should not think of medical tourism. He said “As long as the Clinical Establishment Act is not cleared, no quality can be enforced. At the hospital we are setting up we are putting in all the systems and we will get the NABH accreditation which is important.”
Another doctor who did not want to come on record said “There is a strong lobby that run nursing homes who do not want it to happen. Today in the hospital where are the trained nurses, they get anyone who learns on the job. In such a scenario, how can we even think of medical tourism.”
Perhaps it will have to be individuals like Ajoy Estibeiro who provide medical assistance to those who fall in the State and flies them out with his team where the answer lies. Ajoy usually takes anywhere between one or even four patients in a month whilst providing them medical assistance. This is not medical tourism in the strictest conventional sense but as he said “I intend to launch something new for the international market in Goa very soon. It is innovative and will mean medical tourism. Watch this space. The market does not wait for anyone, we have to find our way.”
Perhaps in that lies the future. Forget about the incentives from the government and have the gumption to jump in and fight for a tiny slice of what is a large market valued in the billions of dollars.

Dental Tourism in Mexico

It’s that time of the year again when Los Algodones experiences a massive influx of Americans and Canadians that are seeking to save thousands of dollars on the cost of their dental bills. Whilst you can travel to Los Algodones at any time of the year, December to March is undoubtedly the busiest period. It is estimated that the Mexican town receives close to 120,000 medical tourists each year, and the majority of these will be undergoing treatment over the next four months.

One of the main factors that contributes to Los Algodones popularity as a dental tourism destination is its convenient location close to the southern borders of both California and Arizona. Mexico’s northernmost town sits just 7 miles west of Yuma and can be easily reached from the U.S. via Interstate 8 and State Route 186, which leads directly to the international border at Andrade in California. From here, many visitors choose to leave their cars overnight in a secure parking facility as Los Algodones can be easily reached on foot. If you prefer to drive across the border, it is worth noting that most US car insurance companies will not offer coverage in Mexico, although a few will provide cover up to 25 miles across the border. It is possible, however, to purchase temporary car insurance for Mexico in Yuma before reaching the checkpoint.

Driving cross-state can take a little longer at this time of the year due to the increased number of medical tourists heading into Mexico to take advantage of the low-cost treatments that are readily available across the border. Many choose to fly in to Yuma and then take a pre-booked cab to the border. Other flight options include Palm Springs, Phoenix Sky Harbour and San Diego, although a rental car will need to be hired as it can take between 2.5 to 3.5 hours to drive to the border from these airports.

As already mentioned, the town is within easy walking distance from the US-Mexico border crossing in Andrade, and there are over of 300 dentists within four blocks of the crossing. Medical facilities and dental surgeries dominate the streets close to the border, all vying for the patronage of the endless stream of U.S. and Canadian citizens that visit at this time of the year. That being said, there are still a variety of retail opportunities in town, along with numerous bars and restaurants for refreshment and entertainment. There are also frequent festivals that take place around this time of the year to capitalize on the booming tourist trade.

The warm, dry climate that is evident at this time of the year appeals to a number of older tourists from across Canada and the United States, many of whom settle down in the winter months in the nearby towns of Winterhaven, Arizona and Yuma. From there, they travel across the border to receive quality dental healthcare for a fraction of the price that they would pay back home.

In recent years, the media has promoted a less than flattering picture of Mexico as a gang-oriented, crime-ridden country – an image that has deterred would-be dental tourists from travelling across the border. Today, the reality is very much different. There are no significant crime issues in Los Algodones and the U.S. government has officially declared the town as being a safe tourist destination. Dental tourism contributes significantly to the town’s economy, especially at this time of year, and the local community strive to create a safe and friendly environment where visitors feel comfortable and unthreatened during their stay.

Convenience and accessibility are not the only driving factors that make Los Algodones the most popular dental destination on the planet at this time of the year. Statistically, there are more dentists per capita here than anywhere else in the world, with more than 900 dentists employed in over 300 clinics within the town. This means finding a reputable dentist in Los Algodones is a relatively simple affair. Many surgeons have received international training and are fluent English speakers, so visitors do not need to speak Spanish to get by. In fact, a large number have studied and qualified in the United States are members of the American Dental Association, guaranteeing that the treatment that patients receive is at least equal to the quality of dental care that they would expect to receive back home.

Perhaps the biggest factor that attracts dental tourists to Los Algodones is the price. Whilst patients experience no difference in the quality of their treatment, they certainly experience a massive difference in the cost. There are a complete range of dental treatments available in Los Algodones, dental implants, dental veneers and dental crowns being some of the more common treatments that are regularly sought out. Generally speaking, savings of up to 70% can be made by travelling Los Algodones compared to undergoing the same treatments in the United States.

This can equate to quite a substantial amount where complex procedures are required. For example, All-on-4 dental implants is a major surgery where a full-arch prosthesis is permanently fitted onto four implants that have been anchored into the jawbone. Dentists in Los Algodones can perform this procedure for around USD $10,000, whereas the same treatment in the United States will cost somewhere in the region of USD $26,000. By transferring the whole family’s annual dental health check-ups and treatments to Los Algodones, even greater savings can be made.

Is it any wonder that hordes of tourists are choosing this particular time of year to flock to Los Algodones for all of their dental requirements? An estimated 3,000 visitors are expected to cross the border every day to enjoy the warm winter weather and take advantage of the exceptional value for money on offer in the Mexican border town. The top-quality service, ideal location and local hospitality make Los Algodones the ideal choice for truly first-class dental treatment