In 2019, India was ranked as the third most preferred destination for medical tourism, with the industry set to reach $9 billion in valuation in 2020 according to Ministry of Tourism figures. But with the coronavirus pandemic, the industry is now one of the worst-hit sectors with its survival being most difficult.
In discussion with Arun Sangwan, Manoj Kumar & Bilal Ahmed, the Founders of METRA- The Medical Travel Representatives Association is a non-profit organisation that works in the interest of the Medical Tourism Companies. They shared that small & mid-sized Organizations working in this sector have been facing a lot of issues in the last Four to five months with international travel coming to a standstill and are starting at zero revenues and expenses remains to be disbursed like salaries, rent, maintenance, technology to connect & address patients from across globe & lot more.
Mr. Manoj, Adds to it, that approximately over Millions of jobs are at stake, these are individuals who are actively involved in patient coordination and highly trained in ensuring that patient gets the right treatment from the right doctor at the right cost. It would be big challenge for medical tourism startups to survive even when the travel ban is lifted.
Further they Suggest, International flights should resume, visa issuance to India needs to resume – with a focus on the medical visa; while it generate forex but also saves human lives and leads to a lot of other forex activities due to the intense contact that these foreigners have with the Indians and India culture for at least two weeks and more.
Mr.Arun Sangwan shared, Hospitals are empty today – MVT brings business to the hospitals and accounts for almost 25 to 40 % of the total business. This leads to investment in innovations and research; and impacts a vast segment of the Indian society monetarily.
Hospitals have not cleared referral payments to MVT intermediaries of pre lockdown period – this is leading to further crisis to the MVT intermediaries who have been the strongest catalyst to the MVT growth in India. The way our country has addressed Covid-19 crisis with such a high population –it’s time we promote our healthcare expertise and infrastructure to the world front.
Moreover, the delay in opening up will impact it deleteriously as people seeking treatment cannot wait and emergency cases would compel them to look for options. They suggest the government to Recognize Medical Value Tourism companies as an independent industry and to provide financial stimulus and support, which brings in so much forex to the country.
Mr. Bilal Ahmed said that I don’t think medical tourism will get back to on track until beginning of 2021, provided we are not hit by more crises. We request the government to reduce restrictions on international patients coming to India as soon as possible, with adequate measures to ensure such patients don’t spread COVID-19 as that’s the hope for medical tourism companies to get back to business.