Kochi: Coastal Kerala state hopes to woo 100,000 foreign tourists for medical treatment and spa holidays in the next five years, the state tourism minister said at the weekend.
“Kerala has been branded globally as the ‘must see’ tourist location. We also have a number of hospitals that offer cost-effective quality care,” minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said Saturday.
Balakrishnan was speaking at the start of a three-day conference on health tourism in the seaside city of Kochi, where about 800 health and tourism executives have gathered.
The minister said the state was promoting traditional south Indian ayurveda cures as a big draw for tourists, as well as private hospital facilities.
Ayurveda includes massage and dietary supplements and has been practiced in India for thousands of years.
Experts said some 15,000 foreign tourists come to the state annually for either traditional treatments or modern medical care.
“Their number is steadily increasing as the cost of medical treatment is mounting in the Gulf and Europe,” said Philip Augustine, managing director of Lakeshore hospital in Kerala.
A study last year by the Confederation of Indian Industry estimates that medical tourism could add more than two billion dollars to the Indian economy by 2012.
India already attracts billions of dollars annually from overseas firms for providing low-cost services such in software development and call centres.
But critics say while the private health sector was being promoted, the country’s public health services were ignoring the poor.