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  Initiative by Indian Government to Promote Medical Tourism: The medical tourism industry in India is presently earning revenues of $333 million.Encouraged by the incredible pace of growth exhibited by the industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and McKinsey have predicted that the industry will grow to earnadditional revenue of $2.2 billion by 2012.With a view to facilitating the medical tourism industry to achieve the targets and to givegreater momentum for its growth, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare together withthe Ministry of Tourism of the Government of India has set up a Task Force. The Task Forcewill evaluate the opportunities in the industry and formulate a policy for accreditinghealthcare institutions in the country. The accreditation program is aimed at classifying healthservice providers on the basis of infrastructure and quality of services offered. It is expectedto standardize procedures and facilitate foreign patients in selecting the best hospitals.Meanwhile, several hospitals in the country are seeking to take advantage of the boomingmedical tourism industry. They are investing largely in acquiring equipments, size and skills.To provide for brighter prospects for the industry, the hospitals can also acquire internationalaccreditation, integrate traditional and clinical treatments and offer end-to-end value addedservices by tying up with tour operators, airline carriers and hotel companies. Hospitals canalso allow foreign patients to pay through credit and ensure proper support services to foreign patients after they return to their native countries.Lastly, the Government of India can also reinforce its support through quick visa processing,improved flight connectivity and infrastructure development. Current initiatives by various state governments and organizations: Government Initiatives:   Central Government and State Governments have been encouraging rural handicrafts and fairs and festivals that have direct impact on preservation of heritage and culture of rural India. It also draws tourists from all over the world. Regional fairs, festivals help the growth of tourism, provide a ready market for the handicrafts, alternative income to the community,and facilitate regional interaction within the country. Leading states such as Kerala, Goa, and Maharashtra etc have taken the initiative to promote medical tourism as a package in itself rather then just a side issue or an added benefit. The effect has apparently been a success amedical tourism has picked up in these states. The state governments have been monitoring closely the ecological relationship, socio cultural impact and conducting feasibility studiesbefore selecting tourist sites. The state governments also ensure that: Tourism  –   ã Does not cause the tension for the host community    ã No adverse impact on the resources   ã Psychological sat  isfaction for the tourist. ã The large inflow of tourists would not put a stress on the local system   ã Local community should not be deprived of basic facilities for the benefits of tourist    ã The rural tourism does not disrupt the rhythm of community life Thus the Central Government and State Governments have taken various steps for the promotion of tourismand attainment of the goal of sustainable tourism development.    TOURISM MINISTRY PROMOTES INDIA AS A 365-DAY DESTINATION:  The ministry of tourism in an effort to promote India as a 365-day destination launched three CDs onMICE, adventure sports and cruises. The ministry is showcasing India as a world-classMICE destination with many convention halls coming up in the line of Hyderabad International Conference Centre (HICC). The CDs also give details about all theadventure sports facilities available in the country and the many cruising options that arecoming up.    TOURISM MINISTRY ISSUES GUIDELINES FOR ADVENTURE SPORTS:  The ministry of tourism recently issued special guidelines for adventure sports activities in the country.The guidelines are regarding land activities like mountaineering and trekking; water sports like river running; and air sports like parasailing, paragliding and bungee jumping.The ministry has laid down the basic minimum standards for adventure tourism related activities that are undertaken in different parts of the country.       KERALA TOURISM REVIVES THE URU / ARAB DHOW:  Kerala Tourism has plans to start URU cruises to replicate the spice route travel of the 16th century. The uru is a homemade colossal sailing vessel made out of timber which used to ply the Indo Persianroutes in times gone by. It is the Indian equivalent of the Arab Dhow. When launched they will operate on the Beal - Cochin sector. This has been quite a crowd puller for medical tourists who flock to Kerala especially for the Aurvedic and relaxing treatmentsoffered. The curious mix of vegetarian food, exotic back waters, courteous and pleasant  people and not to mention extremely smart doctors had made Kerela a very popular destination    HELICOPTER TOURISM SERVICE IN KERALA:  God's Own Country Kerala will be luring tourists by launching a ''Helicopter tourism'' service. Visitors will be taken from one tourist spot to the other in a seven-seater helicopter to save time and also discomfort on theroads. A number of cost-effective packages have been designed in the helicopter tourism segment like ''Capital by Air'', ''Backwaters by Air'', ''Fly the Hills'' and ''ShorelineFlights''. The ''Capital by air'' offers sightseeing trips around Thiruvananthapuram. Thebackwater trip takes tourists around Kumarakom, while the ''Fly the hill'' provides touristsa taste of the hill stations at Thekkady and Munnar. It will also touch Kochi and Kumarakom. The ''Shoreline'' flights offer sightseeing to Kanyakumari along the picturesque coastline. This service is extremely helpful to the patients who are unfit for long journeys by road or rail. Not only that it is very fast and the medical tourist also getsto have his own privacy. In times of emergency the patient can be immediately flown toand from the nearest airport or helipad.    PALACE ON WHEELS ADDS SEVERAL LUXURIES:  The second Palace on wheels to belaunched in Rajasthan early next year i.e. 2007 will have a dance floor, a massagecenter, a conference room and bars. It will be the third tourist train to be operated by Rajasthan Tourism after Palace on Wheels and Heritage on Wheels (on the Shekhwati sector). The second Palace on wheels will also have special suites. This has been agreat success with post operative tour patients i.e. to travel in a princely way. It brings inthe nostalgia about the past eras when the prince and kings and heads of states traveled in a grand way.     MEDICAL TOURISM BROCHURE RELEASED:  The Ministry of Tourism is aggressively  promoting India as a global healthcare destination and has recently released the ‘  Incredible India Brochure on Medical Tourism’  . The government has also started issuing M (medical) visas to the medical patients, and MX visas to the dependent accompanying them, which are valid for a year. Around 200000 medical tourists visited India last year, and the figure will grow by 50% this year.    GARIB RATHS (PLUSH TRAIN FOR POOR)  : The Indian Railways has introduced the''Garib Raths'', a maiden scheme to provide plush rail services to the poor at affordablerates in the year 2004 - 2005, and plans to link all state capitals with express trains, withthe induction of 24-coach trains. The success of the Garib Raths can already be seen inthe rail operating between Saharsa (Bihar) and Amritsar (Punjab) which is a boon to thetraveler especially during the festival season. But as of current reports the country hasnot taken well to the Garib Rath and is making losses for unforeseeable reasons.Medical patients usually skip on rail travel as it takes a longer time and are a bit moreexhausting.    TRAIN TO KASHMIR HITS THE HIGHWAY:  Ever heard of a train running on a road? It does in Jammu and Kashmir. Set to chug in Kashmir's bewitching landscape in snowy February 2007, the first-ever trial train to Kashmir took off for the Valley on November 7,not on traditional tracks but on the 300 km-long Jammu-Srinagar national highway. It hasadded another chapter to the history of Indian Railways and Kashmir's national rail  project, as the first trial diesel mobile unit coach, a 36 tyre wheeled train pulled by a 460 HP engine, drove up the Jammu-Srinagar Highway at 0700 hrs and headed toward Kashmir's Budgam railway station by taking a road route and not a train track. The world recognizes Kashmir as the paradise on earth or the Swiss alps of the east. It isespecially targeted to overseas visitors.    JAIPUR TO SELL HERITAGE LIQUOR:  Shops all over Rajasthan will sell heritage liquor,made from age old recipes of Rajasthan Royals. It is made from dry fruits, nuts, herbsand spices with a touch of saffron sometimes. To begin with, shops in Jaipur, Jodhpur,Kota, Bikaner, Ajmer, Udaipur and Bharatpur will sell the special liquor. General as well as medical tourists can now take these away as souvenirs.
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