Medical Tourism and Covid

Covid 19 has been the most discussed topic this year. The impact it has had on the world until now is not something that we can recover from ay time soon. The markets have fallen, the industries have tumbled, and the economies have collapsed. The growth rates of many sectors have drastically decreased, and the global markets are now staring into an austere future. The medical tourism industry is one such market which is now groping in a dark tunnel, striving very hard to find the end. The heads of many countries are genuinely bothered about the situation that medical tourism is now in.

Before the world was hit by the coronavirus, medical tourism was one of the fastest-growing industries. With thousands of people visiting other countries for medical or cosmetic surgeries, the economies of those countries were boosted, making medical tourism a significant factor of growth. It played such an essential role that a lot of states started to market their medical tourism industries at international fairs and many countries even set up separate bodies to look into the matters of the industry. Along with the governments, the private sectors pitched in, in an attempt to place themselves as top players in the market. And all the global markets had big plans for 2020, but the microscopic devil has come to put an end to all the operations. With international borders closed, flights unfunctional, and domestic quarantines imposed, people could not visit other countries for medical aid. Those who have booked appointments had to cancel them and stay back in their countries and had to cancel all the other plans in the near future.

The ban on international travels in the initial days and the restrictions in the current days made it really difficult for people to travel internationally for medical procedures. The countries which had big plans for 2020 are now nowhere close to reaching them. India, which is the most preferred destination for medical tourism, attracts over 1 million people every year. With the statistics of previous years, India estimated the worth of its medical tourism industry at 9 billion USD. Still, in mid-2020, its capital was estimated at only 5 to 6 billion USD. And the scenario is pretty similar in all other countries. The CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of the industry before the virus entered the world was at 12.4% and the post covid 19 scenarios, the CAGR stands at 11.7%. In terms of money, the estimated market size was around 70 billion USD, and now, the real-time market size is approximately only 40 billion USD. This massive fall in the market size places the industry in a difficult position, making it quite challenging for the sectors to recover.

Reasons that led to the decrease

  • Closure of international borders:

The pandemic made the government close its international borders (and even inter-state borders) initial phases. Even after the borders were opened, a lot of restrictions were imposed, making it very difficult for people to travel.

  • Pressure on resources:

All the countries invested the resources in containing and fighting the virus. Economic and medical resources, including human resources, are now engaged in battling the pandemic. This makes it near to impossible to seek medical help.

  • Safety measures:

In an attempt to contain the virus and to prevent its spread, the governments have imposed restriction on people. The hospitals are not treating any non-critical patients. They have stopped many minor surgeries and treatments and have dedicated the human resources in treating critical cases only.

Dalip Chopra, President of Foundation of Healthcare and Promotion, India, said, “There are many medical tourism players who have brought India to top of the world medical tourism map. Unfortunately, today they stare at a dark future”. Amit Sharma, the founder and the CEO of eExpedise healthcare, said that the fiscal damage that corona would do to the industry was estimated at almost 2.5 billion USD if the condition persisted any longer. This amount is what would have been generated in eight months as revenue if the business progressed without the disruption caused by the pandemic. The leaders across the world are talking about the situations in a similar way. The damage that the virus inflicted on the industry, the decrease in growth rates, and the number of bookings cancelled, these are the topics that are highlighted in the newspapers. 

Josef Woodman, the CEO of Patients Beyond Border (PBB), American, said that every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans travel abroad for medical purposes and save anywhere between 20 to 80 per cent, but due to the pandemic, they all had to cancel the trips. He also said that with the way that things are at present, there is little to no hope of things returning to normal any time soon and the only medical tourism should be within the country. A lot of experts agree with him. The experts have estimated the loss that the pandemic has brought down on the industry and said that the growth rate of the industry is going to be pretty less until the year 2021. 

Although the present condition is very bleak, the future of medical tourism has a lot of hope. By the year 2025, the CAGR is expected to be much better, and so is the market size.

Reasons for better growth:

  1. Low-cost medicine in developing countries
  2. Better technology
  3. Less waiting periods
  4. Personalised care after the surgery
  5. Specialised doctors
  6. The advantage of rehabilitation in tourism destinations 
  7. Different medication or surgery options

These factors promote medical tourism all over the world. The developing countries will be the key markets for the growth of the industry, with the Asia Pacific region at the forefront. Once the virus is eradicated, the medical tourism industry will be in full swing and might even perform better by taking extra safety measures. The lessons that the pandemic has taught will definitely increase the quality of treatment received. Once this is all over, the medical tourism industry will regain its popularity and significantly contribute to the world economy.