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Wednesday, Nov 24, 2004

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Karnataka bets big on healthcare tourism

Our Bureau

Bangalore , Nov. 23

AFTER biting deep into the IT pie, Karnataka says it is set to do another Bangalore on the world, this time with healthcare tourism.

Bangalore and Mysore, together with their super-specialty hospitals and a range of good hotels — even a few ISO certified government hospitals — are being pitched at global tourists and businesspeople.

Still flush from the limelight it got from hosting little Noor Fatima, Pakistani heart patient, Karnataka is now looking at snaring at least 20 per cent of the 3.2 lakh total international inflow as healthcare tourists, according to Mr Mahendra Jain, State Tourism Commissioner.

In a first-of-its kind concerted action from a State Government, it will showcase its top-class corporate and government hospitals and star hotels as the new business opportunity offering the best mix of cost-effective medical treatment and tourist proposition.

The State Government, along with CII, the hospitality and hospital sector is also hosting a two-day `Quality summit - health tourism' here on November 25 and 26 as part of CII's annual Quality Summit.

"We want to position Karnataka as an ideal health tourism destination with its best hospitals and tourism spots," Mr Jain said.

If Kerala tops in ayurveda treatments, Bangalore, with its unusual offer of a mix of traditional systems like ayurveda and yoga and modern medical expertise, was uniquely poised to capture the health tourism market that currently thrives in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. It has the highest number of approved health systems and alternative therapies. The department has done limited promotion campaigns in the country and in the Gulf, Pakistan and the UK to highlight what it can offer.

Mr Vishal Bali, summit Chairman and VP, Wockhardt Hospitals, said Indian medical care also came at a tenth of the cost of similar services in the West and about a seventh of the South-East Asian pricing, at equally good or better quality. Indian services would be pitched at the numerous international business visitors and make them stay on longer.

Mr Bali said a CII-McKinsey study done last year showed the domestic healthcare industry as one of the largest service sector employers providing over four million jobs. Healthcare tourism had grown 30 per cent over last year and can add revenues of $2 billion in eight years.

Driven by health insurance cover, healthcare spending is set to double in 10 years to Rs 1,56,000 crore, especially in private institutions.

In the bargain, domestic patients too, would gain as hospitals upgrades services to international quality, Mr Bali said.

"We are witnessing an increasing trend of international tourists enquiring about the healthcare services available in the country," said Mr Suresh Kumar, summit co-Chairman and VP, ITC Hotels.

Mr Jain said the State does not have specific number on the current inflow of the health tourist, estimated at 8,000 a year. Each of the dozen hospitals that are in the loop could be treating up to 500 foreigners a year. The department is putting up a database on such travellers while on the health front the State Government is sprucing up its district hospitals as part of the game plan.

More Stories on : Tourism | Health | Karnataka

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