Signs of the economic meltdown affecting the booming medical tourism industry in India have already started showing up. Providers of medical tourism claim that demand for surgeries that are not life-threatening has gone down this year.
Agents or mediators of medical tourism - companies specialising in mediating between surgical clinics and patients - are receiving far lesser number of queries from abroad this year. This time of the year is usually considered the busiest with medical tourists coming down from the US and European countries during their vacations.
Vasai-based Royal Medical Tours Limited that arranges for everything right from booking flight tickets, currency transfers, hotel bookings, arrangement for treatment and post-operative vacation is already facing the heat. “Earlier, we received least 2-3 calls per day from clients abroad, but this year it has come down to barely 1 or 2 calls in a week,” said Dr Mikdad Ukaye, one of the owners of the agency.
He also said that most of the clients are even unwilling to pay for the customary advance deposit. “They are reluctant to even transfer the deposit amount thinking what if they change their plans at the last moment,” said Ukaye. The agency gets about 60-75 patients annually, but this year they are afraid that the flow might come down by 50 per cent even in the peak season.
In the last couple of years, India has managed to attract roughly 2 lakh tourists in a year, although the Indian Healthcare Federation along with Confederation of Indian Industry estimated that the country has the potential to attract close to 1 million tourists per annum.