Inflow of medical tourists from Bangladesh surged by 83% in three years, according to figures by India’s tourism ministry
Bangladesh has emerged as one of the key sources of medical tourists for its neighbouring countries, and the number is increasing every year.
About 54% of all foreign medical visitors going to India for treatment are Bangladeshis. According to data released by the Indian tourism ministry, the number of Bangladeshis seeking treatment in India is increasing day by day.
According to figures released by India’s Ministry of Tourism, the inflow of medical tourists from Bangladesh has surged by 83% in the last three years.
In 2015, a total of 120,388 Bangladeshis travelled to India for medical treatment, the figure rising to 221,751 in 2017.
“India is a cheap healthcare destination and hospitals here are known for quality treatment,” Dr Devi Shetty, a member of the National Medical and Wellness Tourism Promotion Board, told the Times of India.
Apart from excellent medical care, Bangladeshis are drawn to India because of parallels in food, language, cost-effective treatment and cultural comfort, he said.
In 2009, Bangladesh accounted for 23.6% of all medical tourists, with the Maldives accounting for 57.5% of all medical tourists. The Maldives' share decreased while Bangladesh's climbed.
Bangladeshis accounted for 57.5% of medical tourists in 2019, with Maldivians accounting for 7.3%. Afghans made up 10.7% of overseas patients in India in 2009, rising to 14.3% in 2016, before falling to 4.7% in 2019, Times of India reported.
According to Dr Manish Mattoo, Vice-President of Fortis Healthcare, Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru are three of the most preferred destinations for Bangladeshi medical tourists while Chennai draws more patients from the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Mauritius.
Stakeholders say direct flight connectivity largely determines destinations.
Foreign patients pay a 20% premium over Indian ones, according to Dr Mattoo. This comes with a system which is in place to look after them.
“Hospitals provide entire support for foreign patients, from arrival at the airport through housing, care, and even cuisines of their choice, as well as translators to assist them throughout,” he told the Times of India.
Data show that India's medical tourism business attracts the most patients for heart surgery, knee transplants, cosmetic surgery, and dental care because the cost of treatment is the lowest in Asia, far less than that in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Over the last three years, the total number of medical tourists to India has nearly doubled. In 2015, 2.33 lakh foreigners sought medical care in India; by 2017, that figure had risen to 4.95 lakh. The figures provided by the ministry are based on data from the Indian government's Bureau of Immigration.
Afghanistan (55,681), Iraq (47,640), the Maldives (45,355), Oman (28,157), and Yemen (11,903) are other nations from which large numbers of people came to India for treatment in 2020.
Dr Shetty said the government of India’s decision to extend e-medical visas to 166 countries has helped needy patients from abroad reach out to Indian hospitals.
The Indian government has abolished a visa restriction on tourist visas that required a two-month gap between consecutive visits for visitors from Gulf countries in order to boost medical tourism.