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MVT to exceed pre-pandemic level; 7.3M MTs likely to visit India

Medical tourism in India is set to get a boost with projections indicating that the number of medical tourists will exceed pre-pandemic levels.

According to data released by credit rating agency Crisil, the number of medical tourists visiting India is projected to be around 7.3 million in calendar year (CY) 2024, up from 6.1 million estimated in CY 2023.

The last time these figures touched 7 million was in CY2019, before crashing due to Covid-19 induced lockdowns.

Speaking on the reasons behind the rebound in medical tourism in India, Anas Abdul Wajid, senior director and chief sales and marketing officer at Max Healthcare said that India has become a popular choice for ‘medical value travel’ in recent times and the country’s potential in this space is expected to grow further.

“The availability of top healthcare infrastructure, a pool of skilled and well-trained medical experts, and cost-effective treatment alternatives make India an appealing destination for those seeking high-quality healthcare services,” he said.

The projected increase in medical tourists in India comes in line with a positive outlook for the segment, allowing major hospital chains to eye growth in international patient revenue, looking to open their international outreach offices in new geographies.

Hospitals seeking international patients
In its outlook for private hospitals in FY25, Crisil stated that medical tourism, which generally accounts for 10-12 per cent of hospital revenue, is expected to grow at almost twice the overall industry growth rate in the near to medium term.

While the international patient segment is being primed for significant growth, hospital chains are already seeing a rise in their revenues from foreign medical tourism.

“Max Healthcare saw a 27 per cent year-on-year (Y-o-Y) growth in its international patient revenue, whose share in the overall hospital revenue stood at 9 per cent during the nine months period of FY24 (9M)”, Wajid said.

While international patient revenues remained almost flat for Fortis Healthcare at Rs 113 crore in Q3 FY24, the business still contributed 7.7 per cent to overall hospital business revenues in that period, according to data released by the company in its latest earnings call.

Speaking to Business Standard, Harinder Singh Sidhu, senior vice-president and head of international business at Apollo Hospitals, declined to disclose the breakdown of revenue and split details. However, he emphasised that Apollo remains a top choice for treatment and care, trusted by numerous international patients.

“We expect double-digit growth. With some of the new medical technologies and treatment programs, we are expecting a large number of patients visiting us for high-quality treatment at a very affordable cost,” Sidhu said.

Expansion of international services
Hospitals are lining up to increase the number of international outreach offices to serve as their ‘embassies’ in foreign countries. The top specialties at these hospitals that attract the most medical tourists are organ transplants (liver, bone marrow, and kidney), cardiac surgeries (including paediatric cardiac surgeries), oncology and orthopaedics and neurosciences.

Max Healthcare currently has nine operational international offices in different parts of Asia and Africa. “We are planning to add three more this financial year,” Wajid said.

Apollo and Fortis too are planning to increase foreign outreach centres with a vision to venture into new geographies.

Apollo Hospitals runs over 20 outreach offices in multiple countries under the name Apollo Hubs. Sidhu pointed out that Apollo is looking to add five more outreach hubs in Congo, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Liberia and Iraq.

Commenting on the reasons behind plans to increase the number of outreach centres, Anil Vinayak, group chief operating officer (COO), Fortis Healthcare said these centres offer assistance with basic inquiries, visa processes, travel arrangements including flight guidance, scheduling doctor appointments, and providing comprehensive treatment plans for those travelling to India.

“Fortis already has outreach offices in Nigeria, Kenya, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. We are now expanding in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“This initiative aids in capacity-building programs within the chosen countries. Additionally, we conduct training programs for doctors and paramedics through observer ships or hands-on training sessions”, Vinayak said.

Medical Tourists in India

CY Number of Medical Tourists (in mn)
2019 7.0
2020 1.8
2021 3.0
2022 4.8
2023E 6.1
2024P 7.3

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