The backbone of Kerala's economy has always been the tourism industry with the scenic beauty of the famous backwaters attracting visitors from all over the world.
The latest buzzword in Kerala is medical tourism with the state government appearing to have cracked the winning combination of fun and well.
AdvertisementTourists like 50-year-old Clay Andersson from Carolina have already experienced the boon of Kerala's medical tourism.
When Anderson came to Kerala all he had in mind was a relaxed holiday. However groin pains from hernia sent him looking for a reliable surgeon. Finding one in Kerala, it cost him only a fifth of what it would have cost him back home, without having to sacrifice his holiday.
Anderson says, "Tourism is already established in Kerala and people come for that, combine it with possibilities of medicines and Kerala is a clear winner."
In addition to several indigenous cures, healing procedures and herbal therapies, Ayurveda has attracted several patients. With the rapid mushrooming of Ayurveda centres and resorts, modern medical practitioners are given a serious run for their money.
According to German tourist, Hans Nowak, "People come to India because of Ayurveda as it's expensive in Germany. Moreover, Ayurveda is done by doctors who are from India. Ayurveda and herbal treatments are the future of Kerala."
In 2003, the Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) in Thiruvananthapuram had about 450 international patients. In 2005 this figure rose to around 4,700.
However effects of the poor public health infrastructure was witnessed by the recent Chikungunya outbreak which has raised fears of decline in this boom.
Chief Managing Director of KIMS, M I Sahadullah said , "I will not go for medical tourism where you have chikunguniya and dengue. I need to have good environment. So Kerala should look at its infrastructure, environment, pollution levels and waste management. If this is dealt, there won't be any problem for medical tourism."
While medical tourism is undoubtedly a boon waiting around the corner only when the state administration gets its public health functions right will it usher in an era of prosperity.