Steps to Promote Medical and Wellness Tourism Sought

Thiruvananthapuram: The one-day meet on Health and Wellness Tourism organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Thiruvananthapuram recently stressed the need for chalking out an action plan to create the right ecosystem for transforming the State into a medical and wellness tourism destination.

The future-oriented summit has also urged the State Government to come out with appropriate policies to achieve this goal by taking the private sector also into confidence.

Inaugurating the summit, P Sathasivam, Kerala Governor, said Kerala’s entry into Medical and Wellness Tourism can only be smooth as the State has made significant progress in healthcare in terms of high life expectancy, minimal infant mortality and state-of-the-art infrastructure.

‘‘Health is one of the four key areas where mission-mode initiatives had been undertaken by the State Government through local self government institutions as part of its recently-launched Nava Kerala Mission programme. Health and Wellness Tourism projects should be integrated into it. Kerala has the potential to be a destination that could offer, besides leisure and wellness, the best medical facilities also, and upgrading the concept of wellness to ‘medical wellness’ would be easy which, in turn, would attract a large number of tourists,” he said.

However, there is a need for a well-thought-out strategy to effectively promote Kerala as a Medical Wellness destination. “This should not be limited to marketing efforts alone. Priority should be given to upgrade medical infrastructure in the State. While fine-tuning our medical infrastructure towards medical wellness tourism, it is important that we should give equal weightage to different systems of medicine available in Kerala. The focus should never be diverted to global tourism interests alone. Medical services should also benefit the people of the State, especially the common man. When medical wellness tourism proves to be really lucrative, the promoters should also come forward to spend a share of the profit to provide healthcare to needy sections of society,” he said. Sathasivam said the involvement of government in these projects was of paramount importance. He also called for enhancing air connectivity within Kerala to further exploit the potential for tourism and medical tourism.

Earlier, the Governor released a study, ‘Mapping the Progress:  Developments in Medical Wellness Tourism in Kerala,’ jointly carried out by Grant Thornton and CII, by handing over a copy to Dr. M I Sahadulla, Chairman, KIMS Group, on the occasion. Setting the theme of the conference, E M Najeeb, Chairman, Health and Wellness Tourism and CMD, Air Travel Enterprises (ATE) Group, sought social industry status for hospitals. “Kerala has immense potential in this segment as the State has 26 NABH-accredited hospitals. But more hospitals should go in for international accreditation,” he said.

M I Sahadulla, in his presidential address, gave an overview of the current profile of medical tourists coming to the State and said that the State should examine why it was lagging behind with only 4.5 per cent of the Health Tourism market share of the country despite the advanced medical care facilities available here. ‘‘Easing visa formalities, opening up of insurance sector and developing skills would enhance our capability in this sector,’’ he said.

V P Nandakumar, Chairman, Kerala State Council, CII; R Subramani, Chief Diversity Officer, Eram Group; Dr. Babu Thomas, Chairman, CII Thiruvananthapuram Zone and Premal Dave, Deputy Director, CII Kerala were also present.

T Balakrishnan, MD, INKEL Ltd.; Rathish C Nair, Honorary Consul of Russia; Dr. Anand Marthanda Pillai, Consultant, Interventional Cardiology, Ananthapuri Hospitals and Research Institute; Dr. Lalitha Appukuttan, Head of Department, NIMS Naturopathy; P Neelakannan, Group COO, KIMS Group; Dr. Sreejith N Kumar, former President, IMA Thiruvananthapuram; Dr. S Sajikumar, CMD, Dhathri Group; Padma Shri awardee P R Krishankumar, MD, The Arya Vaidya Pharmacy; Dr. K K Kalra, CEO, NABH; K R Viswambharan IAS, Chairman, Oushadhi; M R Narayanan, MD, Floatels Hospitality; Bincy Baby, Director, Eram Scientific and H V Harish, Partner-India Leadership Team, Grant Thornton India, addressed various plenary sessions.

‘Government Hesitant to tie-up with private Healthcare Sector’

In a candid speech at the Health and Wellness Tourism summit, E M Najeeb expressed concern over the State Government’s ‘lack of interest’ in associating with stakeholders in the private healthcare sector to promote Kerala as a medical tourism destination.  “The private sector provides 80 per cent of the service in tertiary and quaternary care segments. But, our health department feels that associating with private hospitals is a crime. The Government recently constituted a body of around 20 experts to advise it on improving the healthcare infrastructure. Unfortunately, there was no representation from the private sector in it. When the issue was brought to the notice of the Chief Minister, he informed that the Government would certainly take the opinion of the private sector. But taking the opinion and giving representation as a member of the committee are quite different. If the Government is willing, we are ready to collaborate with them to achieve the common goal, like we did in the tourism sector. It will benefit both the people as well as health and wellness tourism industry,” he said.