A rare combination of advanced facilities, skilled doctors, and low cost of treatment has made India a popular hub of medical tourism, attracting a large number of foreign patients every year. The total number of such visitors in 2017 was 4.95 lakh, Minister of State for Tourism (Independent Charge) K.J. Alphons, said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

This number had stood at around 2.34 lakh in 2015, and 4.27 lakh in 2016.

Bangladesh and Afghanistan continued to be the top countries from where the maximum number foreign tourist arrivals (for medical purpose) was seen. In 2017, about 2.21 lakh tourists from Bangladesh are estimated to have come to India for medical reasons, compared to 1.20 lakh in 2015 and 2.10 lakh in 2016.

Growing numbers

Likewise, the number of medical tourists from Afghanistan stood at 27,505 in 2015 and 61,231 in 2016. The number declined to 55,681 in 2017. Other countries from where large numbers of medical tourists came to India include Iraq, Oman, Maldives, Yemen, Uzbekistan and Sudan.

Asked about the foreign exchange earned (FEE) from medical tourism, the Minister said the data was not separately available. “However, the provisional estimates of the total FEE through medical tourism during 2015, 2016 and 2017 were Rs. 1,35,193 crore, Rs. 1,54,146 crore, and Rs. 1,77,874 crore, respectively,” he said.

The NITI Aayog has identified medical value travel as a major source of foreign exchange earnings.

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