There are tell-tale signs. India is poised to become the world’s global medical tourism destination of the century.
Tourism experts estimate that, with foreign patients flocking enmass into India for treatment of various ailments at comparatively low cost, the Asian sub-continent nation could earn $2.3 billion by 2012 from medical tourism alone.
India’s medical tourism is driven by its cost effectiveness compared to other destinations.
Serviced with sophiscatedtechnologies that enhance precision and speed in diagnosis blended with medical brilliance and personalised care, most Indian corporate hospitals are reputed for novelty in cardiology and organ transplants among others with very high success rates.
The public private partnership (PPP) concept has been at the core of the success story of medical tourism in India.
Consortiums have been the backbone of corporate medical institutions with high patronage from international patients.
By any stretch of imagination, medical tourism is one of India’s tourism products growing by leaps and bounds and set to make even stronger the country’s economy.
There are lessons for Zambia to pluck from India’s medical tourism product development. This is that, medical tourism is a viable product that can be developed as additional “menu” to the existing tourism products with private sector participation.
In the Fifth National Development Plan, the general policy of Government is for the private sector to drive tourism development and contribute to making Zambia a major tourism development destination.
This will come with unique features which will stimulate sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction by 2030. The contribution of the tourism sector to economic growth and poverty reduction is being ‘anthemed’ as key. The placing of tourism as second on the economic development agenda of the country, lends credence to this.
To get the engine of the tourism sector raving, the Zambian Government is paying particular attention to the development of a National Tourism Development Master Plan- a blue print spelling out strategies to ensure economic fortunes out of tourism.
These strategies relate to, among others, improving accessibility to key destination areas like the Kafue National Park, infrastructure development, and development of the Northern Circuit Tourism project.
Product diversification is another strategy aimed at enabling Zambia to derive maximum economic benefits from tourism.
Developing medical tourism therefore dovetails well with Government’s policy for tourism product diversification which will contribute to raising tourist-arrivals well beyond the projected one million per annum.
Since inadequate infrastructure development has been limiting the scope of tourism product development, the PPP approach could be used as a rallying point to evoke private sector participation in moulding medical tourism in Zambia, as is the case in India.
Home to the famous Taj Mahal, India is often described as a tourist paradise. From the mighty snow-capped Himalayas of Kashmir in the north, to the sky-blue seas of Kanyakumari in the south, the verdant deltas of Sunderbans in the east, the world’s largest protected eco-and-game reserve, to the historic forts and shrines of Rajasthan to the west, India has everything that the footloose traveller would find irresistible to explore.
Inbound tourism is booming and the country is going all out to lure more travellers from around the world. According to the Pacific-Asia Travel Association international arrivals to destinations in Asia-Pacific grew by 2.6 per cent in 2008 despite the economic downturn.
One of the factors taking the sector to higher echelons in India, is medical tourism. It is backed by well developed infrastructure, state-of-the art equipment, and expertise captained by the private sector.
India has emerged as a destination of choice for a wide range of elective medical interventions.
One of Asia’s most trusted corporate health care providers owning and managing over 10,000 beds across 44 hospitals and boasting health care information technology, telemedicine, and medical education and training, is Apollo Hospital.
The hospital combines medical excellence with Tourism packages for international patients. As can be discerned the private sector in India has been instrumental in promoting medical tourism.
By the same token, the private sector in Zambia can take a lead in stimulating medical tourism as part of product diversification programme to catapult the economy to greater performance.
Since Zambia is out to capture niche tourism-markets beyond traditional source markets in Europe and America, the addition of medical of tourism to existing tourism products mainly flora and fauna attractions, will give impetus to enhancing the status of Zambia as a tourism destination of choice in line with government’s vision to use the sector as a catalyst for economic development.
The challenge is for the private though, in consonance with Government policy, to play its role in making medical tourism a reality by investing in corporate health care enterprises.
At the recent Export-Import Bank of India/Confederation of Indian Industry Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership, African countries were urged to promote private-sector led chains of hospitals.
At this conclave, India pledged to provide insights into how to do the “nuts and bolts” of medical tourism. Thus, Zambia can use this as a window for networking with Indian players in learning the techniques of weaving together, medical tourism.
With an expanded tourism-product menu, Zambia, with all the attributes of a must-visit country, will certainly go past the projected one million tourists-arrivals per annum.