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Kerala Sees Medical Tourism Soaring

With Kerala expecting at least 100,000 medical tourists in the next three years, the therapeutic tourism industry is in the pink of its health//.

Foreigners are arriving in Kerala's top hospitals for plastic and cosmetic surgery, facial surgery, dental treatments, cosmetology, hip and knee replacement, ophthalmology, voice therapy and obesity treatment.

The second Kerala Health Tourism (KTH)-2007 fair, to be held in Kochi from March 23 to 26, is jointly organised by the tourism department along with the Confederation of Indian Industry.

"We are expecting 1,000 participants from within the country and abroad. There will be people from insurance companies, tour operators from health and tourism sectors, medical tourism planners and third-party administrators," KTH chairman Phillip Augustine told reporters here Thursday.

The fair expects more than 100 exhibitors, including leading hospitals, private clinics, medical bodies, private clinics and spas, to take part. Special pavilions for ayurveda and dental treatment will be put up.

"Over the last few years, the number of foreign medical tourists has gone up. According to reports, 15,000 visitors sought healing at various hospitals of the state last year," said Augustine.

Jancy Joseph, who runs a private dental clinic here, said tooth treatment for foreigners was a hit on account of the huge cost difference.

"The biggest advantage that Kerala has on this front is the large number of non-resident Keralites settled in the US, Europe and Middle East. This movement began when they talked about the low-cost dental treatments in Kerala to their friends abroad," Jancy told IANS.

"In another two to three years, dentists in Kerala will do good business, with a large number of foreigners arriving at dental clinics here," she added.

The government has entrusted the Investment Consulting Research Agency (ICRA) the task of prepari ng a report on Kerala's potential in medical tourism, the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and other factors. The report is expected to be ready soon.

E.M. Najeeb, executive director of KIMS Hospital here, said the need of the hour was for a society similar to that of the Kerala Travel Mart Society - which takes care of the tourism industry - to take medical tourism to greater heights.

"Accreditation and certifications are a must for medical tourism because international insurance companies require this certification to pay their clients after they undergo treatments," he said.


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