Medical and wellness tourism is a rapidly growing segment of the global tourism industry. In order to capture a share in this pie, the state of Maharashtra, which claims to have solutions for both and at affordable prices, saw the coming together of stakeholders from the field of medicine and wellness to build on medical tourism in the state.
Nearly 200 professionals of medicine and wellness, including hospitals, doctors, wellness experts – from Maharashtra and overseas, as well as representatives of the state government gathered in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, recently for the first Maharashtra Health and Wellness Tourism Conference (MHWTC).
The MHWTC provided a platform to experts for discussions and debates on the future of medical tourism in Maharashtra, about the potential of the state to emerge as a serious player in the global medical tourism industry.
“Maharashtra has a huge potential for medical tourism and it is underutilised at the moment. We are at the cusp of growth; there is going to be huge supply of beds in the next three-four years,” says Vijay Gupta, head marketing and business development, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital.
Currently Maharashtra sees more than 50,000 medical tourists every month and is gearing up to be able to treat more. At present it is home to more than 14,000 hospitals and more than 100,000 qualified doctors.
“We are at par, if not better than international standards across specialities. Mumbai has excellent facilities for patient care. Outside the city, all over Maharashtra, there are big and small units that provide speciality care,” says Dr Narayani Shivkumar of Fortis Hospital. “In Maharashtra we have the concept of holistic healing. There is not only the allopathic care or the mainstream treatment, but there is also the wellness aspect with recovery and rejuvenation,” she adds.
A destination for wellness
India is known for its wellness heritage. In fact it sees more tourists coming in for yoga and Ayurveda than for other treatments. Though Kerala in southern India is perhaps the most wellknown and well developed wellness destination in India, Maharashtra too has a fair share, with over 100 yoga and wellness centres, catering to national and international visitors.
“The lifestyles we are leading today are very hectic, especially in the urban areas. This is making health (medicine based healing) and wellness (yoga, massages, etc. based healing) complement each other,” says Dr. Purushottam Rajimwale of Vishwa Foundation, a health and wellness centre in Maharashtra. “This combination of health and wellness we can provide is unique. We can boast of having a lineage of ancient medicine and cutting edge technology in the country; but exposing this package to the world is very important and this is where we currently lack,” he adds.
“Maharashtra has a lot to offer in regards of both- wellness and medical tourism. Recently in the world skill competition, Maharashtra skill labour has proven the best of having the best expertise in the wellness industry,” says Rekha Chowdhary, global wellness ambassador of India.
On the other hand, India is also advancing in terms of global tech, having the best of infrastructure and manpower in place. There are more than 20,000 specialists and more than 1,50,000 nurses and paramedical staff in Maharashtra.
“There is not a single treatment that we cannot provide. From complex cardiac surgeries to heart transplants to oncology or treatment of metabolic diseases and lifestyle diseases, we have a capacity to manage all. Today with facilities like air ambulances, very critically ill patients can be brought in. We have talented clinicians who head the critical care team,” adds Shivkumar.
India is also sharply progressing with its post-operation services, especially with the digital communication at the disposal of both- the patients and doctors. Patients can now have a video chat with doctors from their home country for further consultations. However, the country’s medical institutions need to make progress in the domains of complex technologies such as AI and robotics.
Maharashtra is also vouching on its cultural and heritage side to tap medical tourists as they can also chose to stay back and club their purpose visit with leisure.
The government, represented by Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal and Secretary Tourism Vijay Kumar Gautam, told the participants in the conference that the state would play a proactive role in development of the medical and wellness tourism in the state. “Medical and wellness tourism form an important part of the Tourism Policy 2016 that we have unveiled and we are happy to provide whatever support is needed by the stakeholders in making Maharashtra the preferred medical tourism destination in the country,” says Gautam.
The organisers of the conference say this meeting was the opening step in a long journey to realise the dream of making Maharashtra the leading medical and wellness destination. “We want to organise roadshows and business meetings around the world, in order to create awareness about what we have on offer and also to promote the visibility of our state,’’ says Prajakta Marwaha of Pandoza, the company that organised the event.