India’s National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board

India has emerged as a prime destination in the last few years for people across the globe in need of medical treatment. Affordability, quality healthcare, availability of specialist treatment and advanced technologies are 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 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 for Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, chaired the first meeting of the National Medical & Wellness Tourism Promotion Board. The Board has representatives from government departments, tourism and hospitality sectors, Indian Medical Association (IMA) 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.

Dr SS Agarwal, national president and Padma Shri Awardee, and Dr KK Aggarwal, secretary general of IMA in a joint statement said, “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.”

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.

A Data Bank of available resources in the field of Medical and Wellness services in the country will be built 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 that are interconnected can be reached by all. The board unanimously agreed that a dedicated and sustained campaign on medical and wellness tourism in the source markets will result in substantially enhanced 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 system

Dubai’s Medical Tourist Target

Medical services include but are not limited to surgery, orthopedics, ophthalmology, dental, treatments and specialized tests, to name a few
Published Thursday, April 28, 2016
Sheikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline & Group and Humaid Mohammad Al Qatami, Chairman of the Board and Director-General of Dubai Health Authority, DHA, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in order to promote medical tourism in Dubai and fulfill the emirate’s goal of attracting 500,000 medical tourists by the year 2020.

The MoU signed on the sidelines of the Arab Travel Market, is aimed to cultivate Emirates Airline’s international status and widespread travel routes to fulfil the medical tourism project, Dubai Health Experience (DXH) launched by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council.

As part of the MoU, Emirates Airline packages and tickets can be booked through DXH’s website, which is a first-of-its-kind website that has all the relevant medical tourism information including: medical tourism packages, tickets and hotel booking etc. under a single portal.

The medical services include but are not limited to surgery, orthopedics, ophthalmology, dental, treatments and specialized tests, to name a few.

Sheikh Ahmed said: “Emirates remains committed to government and private sector initiatives that promote Dubai as a global hub for trade, tourism and sport. We are pleased to be working with DHA to make Dubai the preferred destination for medical tourism through our extensive global network covering the six continents.”

Al Qatami said Emirates Airline is DHA’s strategic partner, and is one of the main supporters of the authority’s objective to revitalize medical tourism and make Dubai the preferred destination for medical tourism.

He said by signing the MoU with one of the most important airlines in the world, DHA would hopefully fulfill its goal to attract 500,000 medical tourist by 2020.

He also said that the MoU reflects the unlimited support of Sheikh Ahmad towards the authorities’ projects and objectives stressing that Sheikh Ahmad’s support is considered an important incentive to the success of the project.

Case Study-Turkish medical tourism.

The Turkish Healthcare Tourism Development Council, driven by Russia’s endeavours to deter its citizens from visiting Turkey after its military shot down a Russian fighter jet, has made a significant move to attract health tourists to the country to prevent revenue losses in the sector. The move was made considering the fact that tourism professionals, who generate $900 on average from Russian tourists, earn $10,000 on average from each medical tourist.

The council will bring together more than 100 tour operators affiliated with the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) and the managers of 15 leading private hospitals at a meeting on May 25. The meeting will address ways to attract foreign patients to Turkey with the help of tour operators’ connections abroad. The meeting, which offers a win-win negotiation for both tourism professionals and hospital managers, also aims to prevent the revenue losses that the Turkish tourism sector has been experiencing due to the diplomatic spat with Russia. Sharing the particulars of the meeting, Healthcare Tourism Development Council President Emin Çakmak said that small- and medium-sized travel agencies cannot benefit from the state subsidy of $6,000 that will be granted to travel agencies bringing in 400,000 or more tourists a year. “We will hold an integrative meeting so that small- and medium-sized travel agencies make up for their losses and increase the number of healthcare tourists in Turkey through their strong connections with foreign countries,” he said.

Çakmak also said that the tourism sector lost 30 percent in revenue in January, February and March because of the visa obligation that was imposed on Libyan and Iraqi nationals, who had previously brought a significant portion of revenues in medical tourism.

Referring to the fact that the Foreign Ministry has launched a special formula to ease visa obtainment procedures for foreign patients who visit Turkey for treatment, Çakmak said such tourists can handle the visa process through the Health Tourism Council, the Association of Private Hospitals and the Association of Private Universities. According to Çakmak, the number of healthcare tourists visiting Turkey reached 746,000 and the revenue they brought in reached $5.8 billion in 2015. A total of 60 percent of these tourists came from the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region; 20 percent from Central Asian republics and the remaining 20 percent from Europe and other countries. He said the sector expects a 15 percent rise in the number of healthcare tourists this year.

Çakmak also said an average of $10,000 is obtained from each healthcare tourist, adding that this figure increases up to $650,000 for surgeries such as liver and bone marrow transplants. Since the number of Health Ministry-licensed medical centers has risen, liver and bone marrow transplant surgeries soared 100 percent over the past two years.

Ethica Health Group Chairman Murat Akdoğan said the number of foreign patients who received treatment at the group’s hospitals grew 30 percent and exceeded 4,000 in 2015. The group grew 20 percent in terms of the number of healthcare tourists in the first three months of 2016 compared to the same period last year. It expects the number of foreign patients it treats will exceed 10,000 over the next five years. The group also plans to establish hospitals in Bulgaria, Kiev, Kuwait and Qatar.

Alp Aslan, the owner of the Este surgery clinic that was founded in 2007, said the hospital grew 15 percent annually on average, adding that they expect to achieve the same growth this year. A total of 70 percent of the clinic’s patients come from European countries for all kinds of plastic surgery, including hair transplant and skin rejuvenation. The clinic, which provides service to around 700 foreign patients a year, will invest $10 million to open a new 1,000 square-meter medical center this year.

How medical tourism adds to countries economy.

Tourism plays a very important role in economy of any country.India,USA,Thailand are some of the countries where tourist comes every year for leisure activities.However some months are very slack for tourism industry as a whole due to different external factors.Government of that particular country do lots of campaign to increase the tourism business but it does not help much.In such situation Medical Tourism plays a vital role.As Healthcare is very important need of every individual,its unseasonal and a tourist might travel anytime for it.He or she wont wait for any particular season or discount seasons unless and until it is cosmetic surgeries.The government of the country should focus more on medical tourism in such slack seasons as it will try to revive the tourism industry.The relations of the country with the prospective countries should be strong so that medical tourist can take benefits through offers which airline companies are offering.Currently Indian government is involved in lots of such initiatives like tieing up with Airline companies etc.Every country that want to develop itself medical tourism destination should develop different innovative ways so as to grow tourism sector more and more.

Israel Medical Tourism

Despite its meek size and a population below 8 million, Israel is big on innovation and technology, its medical tourism industry too, is gaining momentum growing in demand:

According to the Medical Tourism Index, Israel ranked third for medical tourism in 2014. In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Israel with the seventh highest life expectancy in the world, thanks to its excellence in healthcare and medical devices. It is also a nation with the highest number per capita of engineers and scientists and a booming life sciences industry, patients can expect advanced medical treatment.

The majority of Israeli doctors have trained overseas in the US or other prestigious institutions, many of which excel, completing further qualifications making them leaders in their respective field. Israel’s high specialist-patient ratio, as well as its 700 general hospitals and medical institutions make it advanced and at the forefront of healthcare. Patients travel from Eastern Europe, Cyprus, US and African countries to Israel; communication between the patient and specialist is effortless, English is widely spoken across Israel –for other languages, a translator is available.

Furthermore, Israeli hospitals continue to invest in the latest medical equipment (some of which were developed in Israel), and its top quality medical facilities perfect the high level of healthcare that a patient receives. Complex treatments and procedures unavailable in other countries are more accessible in Israel and at competitive prices.

Israel is world leading in IVF treatment, even dubbed by some as the “world capital of IVF” – over 4% of babies are born annually to Israeli women who underwent assisted reproductive technology (ART). IVF treatment is far more affordable in Israel than the US – patients can save up to 70% in costs. More importantly, Israel has one of the highest IVF success rates in the world. Other areas of medicine that Israel has a high reputation in include oncology, bone marrow transplants and heart surgery (especially bypass surgery).

Post-treatment patients can recover in an idyllic and multicultural setting, either enjoying the Mediterranean coastline, the healing benefits of the Dead Sea or visit one of its many stunning national reserve parks – not to mention the buzzing cultural and culinary delights Israel has to offer. Additionally, patients can choose to visit Christian, Jewish or Muslim religious sites across the country. Traveling to Israel directly using major airline carriers from major cities across Europe and the US is hassle-free, the majority of medical tourism agencies (or international departments of hospitals) assist with Visa arrangements, making the process a lot smoother and more convenient for the patient.

While the cost of medical procedures in Israel may be higher than that of Asian countries, patients can still save 50% of the cost of treatment than what they would pay in the US, for example. There is no compromise on the quality of treatment and each patient’s case is treated individually using innovative methods, some of which are exclusive to Israel.

Jordan’s Medical Tourism

Ranked first in the Middle East and fifth in the world, Jordan is on the fast track to the top in the field of healthcare. Medical tourism in Jordan has received heavy investments for hospitals and staff.

Why Jordan as a Medical Tourism Destination?

Apart from the extremely attractive costs, which come to as low as 10 ~ 30 % of US costs, Jordan is one of the few countries, which due to their great diplomatic relations with other countries, allows for convenient travel. In fact, most nationalities do not even require a visa, or have access to visa-on-arrival facilities.
Also, the high quality standards in healthcare in Jordan, vouched for by the numerous international and domestic accreditations most hospitals have earned, ensure that visitors get only the best. Jordan has its own healthcare accreditation council in place, which is itself accredited by the Is Qua, ensuring that healthcare in the country meets international standards.
Medical tourism in Jordan has seen an increase over the years, mainly due to high level of expertise provided by hospitals in the country. Apart from state of the art technology, a number of doctors in the leading hospitals in Jordan are certified by the American board or UK fellowship. Also, numerous measures have been taken to ensure there is no language barrier for visiting patients, with most hospitals training staff in English, Arabic as well as Russian.
Some of the most popular treatments include cosmetic surgery, neurological surgery, orthopedics, organ transplants and many others.
Of course, patients always have the option of taking some time off to visit some of the famous religious destinations in the country. Particularly revered by Christian and Muslim faiths, some popular destinations include Mount Nebo, where Moses is believed to have gone to view the Promised Land, River Jordan, where Jesus Christ was baptized and Madaba Map.