April 06, 2009

Better deals soon for medical tourists

This will bring cheer even to a failing heart. For people travelling to India for a heart bypass surgery or a bone marrow transplant, better deals are in the offing. The tourism ministry has been in discussions with major hospitals to offer incentivised deals as part of Visit India 2009.

"We have met representatives from major hospitals and I am waiting for their offer. We would like to include medical tourism in the Visit India incentive scheme," Sujit Banerjee, tourism secretary, said.

The ministry has held discussions with hospitals like Wockhardt, Apollo, Lakeshore, Moolchand, Manipal, Sevenhills and Sir Gangaram. Over 1.5 lakh medical tourists travelled to India in 2002 alone, bringing in earnings of $300 million. Since then, the number of such travellers has been increasing by at least 25% every year. A CII-McKinsey report projects that earnings through medical tourism would go up to $2 billion by 2012.

A Planning Commission report said that while a heart bypass surgery would cost a patient $6,000 in India, the same surgery would cost the person $7,894 in Thailand, $10,417 in Singapore, $23,938 in the US and $19,700 in Britain.

Besides lower costs, Indian hospitals offer global facilities, latest medical technologies administered by Indian doctors and nurses with high degree of proficiency.

The ministry will be introducing these benefits as part of the Visit India programme under which the tourism industry is offering great bargains to incentivise travel to India. Major airlines, hotels and tour operators have already been roped in to offer free travel for spouse or an extra day's stay at a hotel. The ministry on its part is offering stay at a rural tourism destination, wellness resort and an additional night on the luxury train Deccan Odyssey for passengers who are booked for six nights.

The government hopes that these initiatives will boost foreign tourist arrivals that have sagged because of the economic downturn and Mumbai terror attacks.

Link: Original Article

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