India Seeks To Increase Its Share In The Global Medical Tourism Sector

Fitch Solutions / Infrastructure / India / Mon 01 Aug, 2022

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Key View

  • India is taking steps to position itself as a global hub for medical and wellness tourism.
  • The Heal in India initiative aims to boost the country’s standing as a leading destination for medical tourists.
  • India’s medical tourism market will continue to facilitate medical tourism from predominantly low-income nations.
  • India will seek to entice international patients over well-established regional competitors including Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
  • A lack of sufficient government regulation is a key downside risk to growth in India’s medical tourism market, although the announcement of a new government portal will seek to ease concerns.

India is aiming to position itself as a global hub for medical and wellness tourism, seeking to take advantage of the resumption in global tourism amid two years of Covid-19 pandemic-related disruptions. Medical tourism is the term used to describe people seeking elective and non-emergency medical treatment in a country other than where they reside. It is driven by consumers in developed economies seeking an equivalent level of healthcare for a lower cost than what is available in their own countries and by consumers in developing economies seeking a higher quality of healthcare services abroad. As part of the country’s aim to becoming a global hub, India will focus on developing its healthcare infrastructure and leveraging affordable costs of medical procedures to attract international medical tourists.

Through the ‘Heal in India’ campaign, India’s government aims to boost the country’s standing as a leading destination for medical tourists. In January 2022, the ‘Heal in India’ medical tourism campaign was launched by India’s tourism ministry in Dubai. The campaign focuses on building medical travellers confidence in India’s healthcare professionals and services, as well as ensuring quality control measures in the sector. In April 2022, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi promoted the ‘Heal in India’ campaign and also spoke of a new special visa category for those visiting India for medical or wellness therapies. Also as part of the ‘Heal in India’ initiative, the Medical Value Travel Council of India, co-chaired by the health and tourism ministries was formed. The council is tasked with creating an institutional framework to streamline integration between all stakeholders.


An easing of medical visas and other requirements will support an increased number of medical tourists into India. India’s Ministry of Health is working on easing medical visas for patients and their companions from 44 countries which have been identified on the number of patients visiting India. These are predominantly countries in Africa, Latin America, and also members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

India’s medical tourism market will continue to predominantly service patients from low-income, developing nations. In 2021, India’s Ministry of Tourism reported total arrivals of 2.7mn people to the country, of which 187,000 or 6.8%, visited the country for medical purposes. The majority of these arrivals come from developing nations, with these medical tourists seeking better quality healthcare services in India than what might be available in their home countries. India reports a low number of medical tourists from high-income developed nations. The highest proportion of medical tourists to India came from West Asia, with 29.9% of arrivals from this region listing medical purposes, followed by Africa with 19.5% of arrivals.

Patients From Developing Nations Account For The Majority Of India’s Medical Tourists
India – Foreign Tourist Arrivals For Medical Purpose By Region (% Of Total Arrivals), 2021
Source: India Ministry of Tourism, Fitch Solutions

India will seek to entice international patients over well-established regional competitors including Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. While other global destinations such as Turkey, Mexico and Brazil also attract a sizeable number of international patients. On a country level, the highest proportion of arrivals to India for medical purposes in 2021 came from Iraq, the Maldives, Yemen, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Oman, Tanzania, Bangladesh and Kenya. Bangladesh accounted for the highest number of medical tourists to India in 2021 with over 99,000 patients, equivalent to 54% of the total medical tourists to India. Patients are attracted to India’s healthcare system owing to modern hospitals, reputed doctors, lower waiting times and low costs.

Majority Of Arrivals To India From Iraq Are For Medical Purposes
India - Top Ten Countries By Visitor Numbers For Medical Purposes, 2021
Source: India Ministry of Tourism, Fitch Solutions

A lack of sufficient government regulations for the medical tourism industry in India is a key downside risk to continued growth of the market. The absence of a strong regulatory environment for the medical tourism market enables the entry of a high number of service providers which offer lower quality products and services. Lower quality healthcare offerings will weigh on the sentiment of international travellers to India and has the potential to stifle growth in the market, where patients may seek healthcare services in competing, neighbouring countries. The expected introduction of a government-developed web portal will in part seek to provide a more-regulated environment for medical tourism. The portal is expected to be announced in mid-August 2022 and will have a repository of healthcare professionals and hospital services to help international patients seeking medical services in India. It will allow medical tourists to plan, book and pay for listed services, which will have the benefit of rooting out providers of lower-quality healthcare services.

Recovery In Arrivals Bodes Well For Medical And Wellness Tourism

We project India’s arrivals to grow by 153.8% y-o-y in 2022 to reach 3.6mn, increasing from 1.4mn arrivals in 2021. The growth in tourist arrivals will be supported by the lifting of Covid-19 related travel restrictions. India started easing travel restrictions in November 2021 with the majority of restrictions lifted in February 2022. However, we note that this will be lower than the pre-Covid levels arrivals in 2019. The travel restrictions imposed by India in response to the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in arrivals contracting by 74.9% y-o-y and dropping to 2.7mn in 2020 from 10.9mn in 2019. India’s arrivals will continue to increase in 2023, growing by 98.6% y-o-y to reach 7.1mn arrivals. The country’s arrivals will fully recover in 2025 as they reach 11.7mn arrivals, rising above the pre-Covid (2019) levels. Our 2023-2026 forecast for India’s arrivals is an average annual growth rate of 40.6% y-o-y which will result in arrivals reaching 12.2mn in 2026. We expect the recovery of India's arrivals to support medical and wellness tourism over the short-to-medium term.

Increasing Arrivals Will Support Medical And Wellness Tourism

India - Arrivals & Growth (2019-2026)

f = Fitch Solutions forecast. Source: National sources, Fitch Solutions

This report from Fitch Solutions Country Risk & Industry Research is a product of Fitch Solutions Group Ltd, UK Company registration number 08789939 ('FSG'). FSG is an affiliate of Fitch Ratings Inc. ('Fitch Ratings'). FSG is solely responsible for the content of this report, without any input from Fitch Ratings. Copyright © 2021 Fitch Solutions Group Limited. © Fitch Solutions Group Limited All rights reserved. 30 North Colonnade, London E14 5GN, UK.

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