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Table of Contents
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 51-52

Antecedents of positioning medical tourism in India

Department of Commerce, Kamala Nehru College, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission27-Jan-2021
Date of Acceptance01-Feb-2021
Date of Web Publication30-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sheetal Kapoor
183 B, Block A-2/B, DDA MIG Flats, Paschim Vihar, New Delhi-110 063
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/injms.injms_10_21

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How to cite this article:
Kapoor S. Antecedents of positioning medical tourism in India. Indian J Med Spec 2021;12:51-2

How to cite this URL:
Kapoor S. Antecedents of positioning medical tourism in India. Indian J Med Spec [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Jan 29];12:51-2. Available from: http://www.ijms.in/text.asp?2021/12/2/51/312619

”Tourism comprises the activities of persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than 1 consecutive year for leisure, business, and other purposes.” -UNWTO.

Tourism in common parlance refers to visit of heritage sites such as visit to monuments, wonders, forts, gates, darwazaas, markets, famous lanes, and other prominent sort of places. What's new in tourism is one of its modern branches referred to as medical tourism. With international travel becoming more affordable and accessible, the economic disparities between various countries have given the option to patients to traverse international borders to seek medical care and attention, which is referred to as medical tourism. Medical tourism or health care tourism is fast-growing multibillion-dollar industry around the world. It is an economic activity that entails trade in services and represents the mixing of two of the largest world industries: medicine and tourism. In simple words, it means movement of people from one country to another for medical treatment. The term medical tourism devised by travel agencies, and the media describe the rapid growing practice of traveling across international borders to obtain hi-tech medical care. Tourism is a service sector where both tangibles and intangibles positioning needs to be taken care of. Having a rich cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and a relatively well-developed medical system with qualified medical and paramedical staff, India, attracts a large number of health tourists from all over the world. According to the Ministry of Tourism, medical tourism in India has grown from a staggering value of around $3 billion in 2015, to a whopping $9 billion in 2020 before COVID-19 struck.[1]

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development describes medical tourists as those who “travel across international borders with the intention of receiving some form of medical treatment.” Since medical tourism is a new field with huge potential, therefore, it should be positioned in the right manner so that the health tourist has a hassle-free stay and has a positive word of mouth about it. Thus, brand positioning this sector involves perceiving what the health tourists look for when they travel to India. It involves three things who am I (quality health care), how am I different from others (affordability and accessibility), and why buy me in preference to others (building long-term trust).[2] As positioning is the act of designing the offerings image (medical tourism) to occupy a distinctive place in the target market (medical tourists), therefore, a successful creation of a customer-focused value proposition becomes imperative.[3]

Positioning medical tourism in India involves a creative exercise which involves listing down the ideas (benefits and features) to convey to its target consumers (medical tourists). Prerequisites to this include determining the core strengths in Indian health care by providing successful health-care solutions and maintaining quality of treatment, providing range of procedural and treatment options, infrastructure, and skilled manpower to perform any medical procedure with zero waiting time. This way, the benefits of traveling for medical treatment can be reaped by many. The unique feature of coexistence of alternate system of medicine such as Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy, and Naturopathy is also an attraction for health tourists seeking curative and healing benefits. Further, India has a rich tradition of yoga and meditation which provides lasting solutions to modern lifestyle-related diseases. This diversity of multiple health-care systems in the country makes India, a strong attractive destination for medical tourism in the world.[4]

The practice of medical tourism depends on successfully informing potential patients about procedure options, treatment facilities, tourism opportunities, travel arrangements, and destination countries. The promotion of medical tourism includes a wide range of marketing materials such as flyers, booklets, and websites. Yet, there is a paucity of knowledge about the dissemination, content, and reception of these promotional materials.[5] The core brand elements in medical tourism for India stem from the following: low-cost advantage, robust status in expanded health-care segment, and the diversity of tourist destinations available in the nation.

  1. Low-cost advantage: the costs of complicated medical procedures in India are a fraction of the cost incurred in the developed nations. The combined cost of medical expenses and tourism expenses are much lower than the medical expenses abroad and a large number of tourists visit India to take advantage of this cost difference. This is predicted of having captured 18% of the global market. The prime reason is cheaper rates from Western Europe, Southeast Asian countries, etc. Private institutions such as Max Healthcare have treated up to 50,000 foreign patients in its hospitals. India is particularly known for heart surgeries, hip resurfacing, and other advanced surgeries. Highest number of patients come from Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Around 30% of patients come from South Asia, 30%–32% from Africa, 10% from Commonwealth of Independent States, Oceania and Europe, and the rest from West Asia. Many patients look at the specialty of doctors rather than the cost. Most of the doctors and surgeons at Indian hospitals are trained or have worked at some of the top medical institutions in India[6]
  2. Robust status in expanded health-care segment: India enjoys high credibility in wellness, prevention, and alternative medicines with a battery of highly skilled doctors and surgeons.
  3. The National Institute of Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, identified the Medical Value Travel as a major source of foreign exchange earnings. According to a report by FICCI and IMS Health, India has nearly 18% of the global medical tourism market. Furthermore, India's medical tourism industry is worth $9 billion and in 2020 accounted for 20% of the global market share.
  4. Accessibility: For medical tourists, the Ministry of Tourism along with the Ministry of Home Affairs provides quick short-duration visas. Zero waiting and immediate available service is a big attraction to the foreign medical tourists. World-class and standardized medical services and the presence of accredited hospitals using most advanced technology are another driver for the tourists
  5. Information dissemination: A comprehensive and dynamic website providing all kinds of information to a traveler of any origin is now present in India. Medical tourism requires dedicated services to alleviate the anxiety of foreign patients. These include translation, currency, travel, visa, posttreatment care system, and accommodation of patient's relatives during and after treatment.

For making medical tourism popular, it is required that the quality of medical services in both public and private hospitals should improve. Some of the challenges in medical tourism include:

  1. Perception of foreigners regarding cleanliness and hygiene and improper handling and disposal of garbage in India
  2. Indian traffic and clutter also pose a problem to medical tourists as their stay is longer than normal tourists
  3. Improvement in infrastructure, transportation, and good connectivity with origin countries are some other needs of medical tourists
  4. Service providers making the use of differential pricing policies and absence of business standards deflect tourists demand to other viable targeted destinations in the globe.

India is uniquely placed by virtue of its skilled manpower, English speaking population, more experienced doctors (as they face diverse medical conditions because of the large volume of patients), and a large nonresident Indian population overseas. Although due to the coronavirus epidemic, all the travel and tourism activities have shrunk, but there is a strong possibility of Indian medical tourism industry to revive faster than some developed countries such as Europe and USA. This may involve improving the image of India in the minds of the medical tourists and for this the medical fraternity, government, private players, local community, and civil society should work hand in hand.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Ministry of Tourism Report; 2020. Available from: https://tourism.gov.in/annual-reports/annual-report-2019-20. [Last accessed on 2021 Feb 25].  Back to cited text no. 1
Shunu S. On Branding. The Hindu-Business Line; April 06, 2000.  Back to cited text no. 2
Philip K. Marketing Management. 11th ed. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India; 2000.  Back to cited text no. 3
Manju TK, Sarath Chandran BP. Health tourism in India: Potential and prospects. Int J Res Econ Soc Sci 2017:373-84.  Back to cited text no. 4
Crooks VA, Turner L, Snyder J, Kingsbury RJ. Promoting medical tourism to India: Messages, images, and the marketing of international patient travel. Soc Sci Med 2011;72:726-32.  Back to cited text no. 5
FICCI, Report Working Paper on Medical Tourism in India; 2020. Available from: http://ficci.in/publication.asp?spid=23053. [Last accessed on 2021 Feb 25].  Back to cited text no. 6


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