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India has the potential $214 million market for halal medical tourism

Halal Medical TourismBy Shafeeq Rahman for Maeeshat

India is a globally known destination for the foreign medical tourists due to the best medical infrastructure with the cost advantages. Other top destinations for the medical tourism market are USA, Turkey, Hungry, Mexico, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines. Besides the cost advantage, India has an edge in modern state of art health infrastructure and hospitals under public and private sector in accord to the international standard. Apollo, Fortis, Wockhardt, AIIMS, and Lilavati are some of the well-accepted names in modern hospitals under allopathic treatment system. India is also the well-recognized country for the traditional form of treatments like Unani, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, and Yoga etc. India’s skilled medical manpower is highly acknowledged across the world for their professionalism.

During the last year 2016, there were 97 thousand foreign tourists have visited India on medical visa while they were accompanied by 71 thousand medical attendants for their patients. Health service export caused to the inflow of $271 million in 2016 to India and is expected to increase manifold in coming years. Cardiac treatment (30%) is the most popular product of Indian medical tourism for foreign tourists, followed by orthopedics (15%), nephrology (12%), neuro surgery (11%), cancer (11%) and rest for other treatments.

Interestingly, most of visiting medical tourists are from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries that indicate India is a favorable destination for Muslim medical tourists. As per the population ratio estimates, the number of Muslim tourist for medical purposes flocked are 76320 that caused to the inflow of $214 million amount in India. Muslims make the around 72% share of total foreign medical visitors in India. The compound annual growth rate during 2013 to 2016 is 2.5% higher among the Muslim in compare to the total medical visitors. Muslim tourists are expected to grow at the rate of 13.4% during 2016 to 2020 and are projected to reach 143 thousand in 2020 while the overall rate would be 11.5% and will reach 167 thousand in 2020.

Top countries with highest Muslim visitors in India for the purpose of medical are shown in given table:

Top 10 Countries with Highest Estimated Number of Foreign Muslim* Arrival on Medical Visa in India 
Nationality Arrival Amount inflow ($000)
Bangladesh 39045 109248
Afghanistan 14083 39404
Iraq 5868 16417
Oman 5793 16210
Uzbekistan 1983 5548
Maldives 1517 4245
Somalia 1505 4212
Yemen 1454 4069
Nigeria 1198 3351
Pakistan 823 2304
Total Muslim 76320 213540
*: based on population ratio

Aforementioned figures argue that India has all the potentialities to develop a niche market for halal medical tourism. Halal medical services consist of medicine to be used without alcohol & pig ingredients, serving of Halal food in the hospital during treatment and fixing a place with the timetable of Salat (Daily prayer) and many other services. Under this kind of tourism packages, Muslim prefer to avail their friendly services from the treatment to logistics. There are many international agencies like the Crescentratings which are in business to assign the ratings to the hotels, airlines, and hospitals according to the level of Muslim friendly services therein.

Cost advantage in India attracts the Muslim tourist from developing countries like Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen while the affluent Muslim tourist like from Saudi Arabia and UAE are moving to USA, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and other European countries. With more technological advancement with the provision of Muslim friendly services, India can also draw such affluent Muslim segment across the world. However, India has witnessed many high profile medical tourist visits in last years like the king of the State of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah was in Jaypee hospital in Noida, former president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai’s baby born at Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurgaon and the world heaviest women Eman Ahmed from Egypt was treated in Saifee Hospital at Mumbai.

Considering the importance of wellness tourism in India, Government of India has taken various measures to promote medical tourism in the country. These include extending financial support under the Marketing Development Assistance (MDA) scheme to medical tourism service providers and medical tourism facilitators for the promotion of medical tourism in overseas markets and an introduction of ‘Medical Visa’ and ‘Medical Attendant Visa’ for foreign tourists coming to India for medical treatment. Recently the government has constituted a National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board to work as representatives from AYUSH, Quality Council of India, and National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH).

There is also imperative to formulate a similar multipronged strategy to enhance the number of Muslim tourist in India. The government should carve the schemes and promote the niche growing market for Halal medical tourism separately as it has promoted Yoga. Tour operator can also design specific packages for the Muslim medical tourist that may include the air tickets in Muslim friendly airlines, stay in Halal hotels and the treatment in the hospitals which are using the Halal certified medicines.

Mr. Shafeeq Rahman, Ph.D. is a Delhi based researcher. He may be contacted at rahman.shafeeq@gmail.com

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