The new domestic and global campaigns for the current year focus on India as a destination for niche segments like Medical Tourism, Cruise Tourism, and Spiritual Tourism. The aim is to expand the range of the tourism products in India both for the domestic and international consumers. The Ministry has also promoted Monsoon Tourism in various states.
Medical Tourism - Health is Wealth
One of the remarkable initiatives of the year was medical tourism. The potential of Medical Tourism which can bring additional ten thousand crore foreign exchange annually, was never considered in the past. The medical tourism market in India is currently estimated to be worth over $300m. According to McKinsey reports, India is poised to generate business worth US$ 2.2 billion by 2010, but is yet to have a standardisation system in place. Also, there is a dearth of synergies between hospitals and tour operators. A tripartite synergy between the hospitals, tour operators and state governments was imperative to harness India's latent medical tourism potential.
The government of India has taken up a number of steps to increase foreign tourist arrivals to India. They include: Creation of World Class Collaterals, Centralized Electronic Media Campaigns, Direct cooperative marketing with tour operators and wholesalers overseas, Greater Focus in the emerging markets, particularly in the Region of China; North-East Asia and South East Asia, Participation in Trade Fairs & Exhibitions, Optimizing Editorial PR and Publicity, Use of Internet and Web marketing, Generating Tourist Publications, Reinforcing hospitality programs including grant of air passages to invite media personnel and tour operators and Launching of Road Shows in key source markets of Europe.
Initiatives have been launched in the sphere of Medical Tourism in partnership with the private sector to make India emerge as a major global hub. Expert committees have been set up to draw plan and criteria for accreditation for the hospitals and related agencies. A large number of job generation activities are expected through medical tourism. The government of India has introduced a new category of Medical Visa (M-Visa), which can be given for specific period to foreign tourists coming to India for medical treatment.
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the Ministry of Tourism have jointly formed a Task Force with a view to promoting India as a Health Destination for persons across the globe so as to gainfully utilize the health care expertise and infrastructure available in the country.
Sub-committees were constituted to sort out issues of accreditation of hospitals, standardization of services and marketing. The work of price-bending of hospitals to ensure uniform and reasonable prices for particular treatment and accreditation for maintaining required international standards have been completed. The Ministry of Tourism has also prepared promotional CDs, brochures and other material for launching campaign in overseas markets in January next year. A new category of visa, M-visa providing long stay to medical tourist and his or her companion also started this year.
For not so critical surgery, tourists from the US, UK and Canada like to combine it with travel. They prefer to visit cold destinations like Shimla, Manali, and Mussourie after their surgery. For a nose job, tourist can head to the backwaters of Kerala, or combine a tummy-tuck with a visit to the Taj Mahal.
Cosmetic surgery is the next big thing to come packaged with tourism in India. The Incredible India! Website promises cosmetic-surgery tourism for anything from hair implants, scalp reductions, rhinoplasty (reshaping or re-contouring of the nose), face-lift, cosmetic eyelid surgery, brow lifts, sub-metal lipectomy for double chin, chin and cheek enlargement, and lip reductions to various types of breast surgery/reconstruction and liposuction.
India is hoping to divert some traffic from established cosmetic surgery destinations like Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, South Africa, and Thailand. About 1,53,000 foreigners took advantage of the comparatively low-priced medical services last year. They are expected to increase multifold in the next five years, with about one-third of the traffic going in for some sort of cosmetic surgery procedure across states.
Opportunity for Tour Operators
Mainly due to low cost and banking on international goodwill of Indian Doctors, the initiative is hoping to benefit both hospitality and healthcare industry. The international marketing team for new-age healthcare chains like Apollo, Fortis and Escorts are tying up with hospitality industry and service providers to help these tourists improve their looks in five star comfort.
Others who are part of this health tourism circuit include AIIMS, Christian Medical College, Tata Memorial Hospital, Indraprastha Medical Corporation, Escorts Hospital and Research Centre.
Erco travels has tied up with Apollo Hospital in New Delhi for various cosmetic procedures like liposuction. Similarly, the Leela Palaces and Resorts hospitality chain has announced a tie-up with UK-based Globe Health Tours to offer cosmetic procedures in Kerala.