Maha Medical-tourism to double in 2 years: Valsa Nair Singh
The Maharashtra state tourism department is focusing seriously on medical tourism and newer avenues such as fort-tourism. The state government’s top bureaucrat overseeing culture and tourism thinks medical tourism will double in two years and thereby become a formidable source of revenue.
Valsa Nair Singh, IAS, Principal Secretary, Tourism & Culture with government of Maharashtra, thinks medical tourism will provide a new revenue channel for the state. She finds that the state has a great opportunity to improve upon visitor count in 2 years. “Medical tourism is possible. Thanks to the new relaxation in the e-medical visas segment, we hope that we can increase tourist-count from 2 lakhs to 5 lakhs in 2 years. To achieve this we are planning medical focused roadshows in many parts of the world.”
A CII-Grant Thornton Whitepaper as early as 2015 had predicted Indian medical tourism sector would grow to $8 bn. India would be the fastest growing sector in medical tourism after Thailand. In India, the state of Kerala observed the fastest growth at a CAGR of 20%. But by attracting only 5% of medical tourists, the advantage was picked by other states such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, NCR and Andhra Pradesh. Although Maharashtra has good infrastructure in place, getting more clients would mean better focus on marketing and promotions.
Bangladesh which incidentally sends the largest number of tourists to India will be the focus of the department. In fact, the Tourism secretary’s department has a mandate to participate in a minimum of 3 roadshows through the first quarter of CY 2017. She quips, “There is a medical expo in Bangladesh that we are focusing on. I wish we could take part as a single delegation instead of sending different parties. Then there are expos in Russia in July, and then in China. The department would also be taking part in Arab travel mart and roadshows.”
Having worked with Mumbai as its Metropolitan Collector once upon a time, Singh emphasized that there is a dying need to rope in entrepreneurs to the trade. She adds, “We should be proud that the eco-village concept at Govardhan in Palghar district received accolades and an international award for the best concept in Asia.”
Speaking about challenges such as GST and demonetization, Singh averred that tourism is growing despite demonetization, and electronic visa or e-visa on arrival are becoming a reality. The tourism industry has been helped by improved connectivity. “We are trying to replicate organic living, wellness, yoga, and plainly and about experiencing rural India themes,” she shares.
Singh who was ecstatic on fort-tourism felt that with 550 forts, including 20 sea-forts and 720 sq km of a coastline, the opportunities remained untapped. Private investors and entrepreneurs could add better value to MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) by infusing fresh investments and ensuring that such projects are well-managed.
H.E. Erdal Sabri Ergen, Consul General of Turkey agreed that tourists need a new experience every time. Facilitation according to him has been a key area of concern. “Turkey’s main advantage is our judicial department, and e-visas that are allotted within 5 mins to 1 hour. These factors helped us to increase the Indian tourist base to Turkey by 300%,” he shared.