Even as chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced during his recent visit that Vizag would be turned into a medical tourism hub, experts in this sector said there are several challenges that needed to be tackled first.
Flight connectivity to Africa and the Middle East hold the key as these two regions have around 12.2% and 7% of tourists arriving in India for medical tourism, as per statistics available for 2014. Also, experts opined that international accreditation for hospitals is important to draw medical tourists in addition to marketing tourism destinations in the state as well as Vizag in particular.
Speaking to TOI, Anurav Rane, CEO and co-founder of planmymedicaltrip.com, which plans medical trips for patients coming to India, said in case of AP, a few challenges need to be tackled for medical tourism to take off in the state.
"As far as Vizag is concerned, only one hospital is JCI (Joint Commission International) approved. We need international accreditation for more hospitals. Also, we need more direct flights to Africa and the Middle East as people from these areas now prefer either getting treated in Chennai or Kolkata."
Pointing out that planmymedicaltrip.com is looking to engage with more hospitals in AP as well as Vizag, Rane said, "There is a huge potential as the medical tourism industry is growing at around 45% and it's a huge market." Also, he said, "Pathological labs are also needed as many of the samples are sent to Hyderabad or Mumbai and we have to wait for the reports, which is not feasible."
Dr C V Rao, plastic surgeon and formerly principal of Andhra Medical College, said, "Apart from flight connectivity and international accredition, visa on arrival facility is also required. If anybody wants to come urgently, then visa should be provided immediately. We also have to provide infrastructure such as ambulance services which are on par with international standards."