Author: Renee-Marie Stephano
India has taken notice of the constant increase of foreign tourists since 2009 with 5.17 million and 2011 with 6.29 million. There were also some measurements taken that showed an increase in the arrival of medical tourists from 2.2 percent in 2009 to 2.7 percent in 2010. As of right now and in the past, a system to track the number of wellness or medical tourists to foreign countries has not been available. In some cases the numbers are estimated, in other cases countries have a method of their own for tracking the numbers. Either way a completely accurate system for separately tracking wellness tourist, medical tourists or even tourists that are visiting the country and need emergency care is not available. Even without a set system in place, the Indian Government is noticing the increase in wellness/medical tourists to India. After noticing this increase and realizing the potential, the Ministry of Tourism has decided to invest in medical/wellness tourism to continue increasing numbers in the future.
Subodh Kant Sahai, Union Tourism Minister said in an interview with India Blooms News Service (IBNS) that; “India has always been known for its rich heritage of wellness traditions and has enormous possibilities to offer to wellness seekers.” “The Ministry of Tourism has identified ‘Wellness Tourism’ as one of the Niche Tourism Products. The Indian System of healing along with Yoga has been well highlighted in the Incredible India campaigns of the Ministry of Tourism. In fact, Wellness as such has become a unique selling point of Indian tourism.”
According to the Information Bureau of the Government of India, The Ministry of Tourism sanctioned Central Financial Assistance of Rs.10.00 lakh to the Government of Andhra Pradesh for the first phase of the medical tourism project. The project will involve development of pre-qualification standards for hospitals that are members of the Medical Tourism Society during 2011-2012. The Ministry of Tourism provides financial assistance under the Market Development Assistance Scheme (MDA) to approved medical tourism service providers i.e. representatives of hospitals accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI) and National Accreditation Board of Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) and medical tourism facilitators. The Ministry also provides assistance under this scheme to approved wellness centers and spas i.e. representatives of wellness centers accredited by NABH or the State Governments. The MDA assistance is for participation in medical/tourism fairs/medical conferences/wellness conferences/ wellness fairs and allied road shows.
In addition to financing, the Ministry has developed guidelines for wellness tourism. These guidelines include training and capacity building for the service providers and participation in international and domestic wellness related events. They have realized that the quality of service is just as important as the actual service offered. There have also been guidelines developed for accreditation of wellness centers, these were developed by NABH in collaboration with the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Siddha, Unani and Homeopathy (AYUSH) and released during the workshop on wellness tourism in February 2011. Across the country sensitization workshops are being held as a way to educate wellness centers about the importance of accreditation and the other efforts the Ministry of Tourism is doing to promote medical tourism. According to IBNS, following the workshops, the NABH has accredited six wellness centers including spas, three Ayurveda hospitals and there are other applications waiting for approval.
Accreditation not only makes your company more reputable, but it will also increase the value provided to patients. You may have one of the best healthcare or wellness facilities in the area, but if certain procedures are not in place you will have a more difficult time attracting an international audience. In addition to JCI and NABH, the Medical Tourism Association™ (MTA) offers accreditation for individuals and facilities. Our certification courses are taught by individuals that have been working in the “international patient department industry” for years. For more information about the MTA’s certification program visit this website http://www.medicaltourismassociation.com/en/international-patient-center-training-program.html .