Analysis: SHIKANDA KAWANGA
THE tourism sector is currently one of the country’s economic growth potential areas. This is why it has been conferred the non-traditional export status.As such, the sector is receiving much support from Government by way of infrastructure development, promotion of private sector participation, as well as attractive tax incentives for all investments in the sector.
However, one aspect that begs exploration is medical tourism.
Medical tourism is the process of travelling outside the country of one’s residence for the purpose of receiving medical care.
According to Patients Beyond Borders – a medical tourism guidebook – medical tourism is becoming a growing industry.
Countries in Europe, Asia, and South America have found success in offering medical care to people from other countries.
These countries offer more than simply medical care; they bundle the experience with other comforts, including interesting tourism opportunities and spa-like amenities.
For a country like Zambia, which is looking for various ways to grow its economy, medical tourism is one such area Government is exploring.
This is why the Ministry of Health has been very proactive in improving the delivery of quality health services to the people.
As a way of developing the sector further, the ministry has signed agreements with various stakeholders.
Recently, Apollo and Yashoda Hospitals of India signed separate MoUs with the Ministry of Health for collaboration in improving health services in the country.
These two MoUs include provision of specialist training for the Zambian health personnel exchange programmes among many other areas of collaborations.
What’s elating is that these MoUs will enable Zambia to start conducting some of the sophisticated surgical operations Zambians have been accessing in India.
This entails that the country will no longer spend money on sending patients abroad.
In this case, some Zambian specialists will be trained to conduct some of those operations whilst some of the Indian doctors will be undertaking the same complicated operations within the country.
One may wonder why Zambia chose to partner with the Indian health institutions.
This is for the simple reason that India’s health sector is far much more advanced
According to the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the primary reason that attracts medical value travel to India is cost-effectiveness.
India offers high-quality treatment from credible facilities at par with developed countries at a much lower cost.
The Medical Tourism Market Report: 2015 found that India was “one of the lowest cost and highest quality of all medical tourism destinations, it offers wide variety of procedures at about one-tenth the cost of similar procedures in the United States of America.
Some of the common health procedures that people undergo on medical tourism trips include cosmetic surgery, fertility, orthopedic, cardiac, oncology problems and organ transplants, weight loss surgery.
It is also worth noting that India is rapidly becoming a hub of medical treatment for foreigners.
World over, most of the governments are willing to invest in the development of local infrastructure to attract more foreign medical tourists.
Good infrastructure is key to boosting tourism and increases the standard of life of the local residents.
The major benefit of medical tourism is that it brings direct foreign exchange earnings and subsequently contributes to economic development.
It creates employment and business opportunities for the local people.
With the growth of medical tourism comes a demand for taxi services, hotels, and restaurants and, in the process, jobs are created.
On the other hand, indirect employment comprises the delivery of goods and different other services required by the wellness tourism industry.
Furthermore, if medical tourism destinations make an impact on foreign travellers, the chances are that they will visit again and probably recommend to other potential tourists.
In a nutshell, medical tourism provides an opportunity for national economic growth.
This is why Government is working towards unlocking the economic potential that lies in medical tourism and this deserves support from all well-meaning Zambians.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail correspondent.
Medical tourism, unexploited forex earner
Analysis: SHIKANDA KAWANGA