As the whole services industry takes a beating in the Covid-19 era, travel, and in particular medical travel has come to a grinding halt. The Indian Medical Travel Industry is estimated to be a 5 bn USD market, out of which almost 50% is spent at the hospital. India contributes to the healthcare of almost a million international patients every year. Majority of them coming for life saving treatment.
As India and rest of the world closes air space fearing the import of COVID infections, the Medical Value Travel Industry too has suffered intensely, making nearly 4000 strong MVT industry players desperate.
But Dr. Abhik Moitra, President and Founder of HBG Medical Assistance, a leading Medical Assistance Company thinks otherwise. “The situation has also presented us with an opportunity to re-think, re-target and re-start the business” he says. Dr. Abhik Moitra, leads HBG Medical Assistance, which is one of the more popular medical travel companies of India. Adding further, he says, “India has been getting a Lion’s share of business from Africa, SAARC and Middle East, till now. We have not been getting those many patients coming in from Central Asia or Western World in all these years. With talks of immunity being a matter of discussion everywhere, the situation provides us with an opportunity of promoting Ayurveda and Wellness in all available markets and specially in western markets. These patients who would go to destinations like Turkey and Thailand for their healthcare and wellness needs, may consider India as their new-found home. It is time that the industry gets together and strategizes together.”
Like HBG Medical Assistance, there are many other players, who feels same. But there are some who sound worried due to reasons other than mere economics. Mr. Vinay Agarwal, founder and Managing Director of Shinon Collaborative, another premier medical travel company, with focus on South East Asian Markets, feels that a prolonged lock down of Air Space will hurt. “A patient who is in needs of serious health care may not have much time in his hands. As much as we are responsible for health of our own country, we do carry the responsibility of these lives which depend upon us.” Says Mr. Agarwal. “Besides, being in service industry, we may not have a huge capital to sustain operations without revenue for long”, he adds.
Medical Travel Business is worldwide close to 40 Bn USD market, and, India has been one of the leading recipients of this business. Patients travel to India in search of expertise and to save costs. India’s closer competition is with Turkey, which enjoys proximity to European Markets and Thailand, which has a unique tourism oriented International Healthcare structure. Both these countries have suffered too, but has decided to open the Air Travel from safer countries before India.
“The major private Indian Hospitals have much of a focus on these International patients who assist in profitable capacity utilization, with better per bed per night revenue” adds Dr. Abhik Moitra. “The business of Medical Tourism or Medical Value Travel helps in cross subsidization of domestic patients. Additionally, it inspires the Hospitals to put up better infrastructure to attract these medical tourists. Also, International patients helps retain medical talent as it gives a great emotional satisfaction to doctors, having saved a foreign life.”
Both Mr. Agarwal and Dr. Moitra agree that future of medical travel is safe. Mr. Agarwal concurs with Dr. Moitra who says, “COVID-19 has just pushed a pause button and as soon as the lock down of International Travel will open, we will start picking up from where we left. The challenge will be to give enough confidence to the traveling patients who may have lost a sentiment to Corona”.