Due to its low cost, high quality medical care and variety of offered services, in tandem with soaring healthcare costs in the developed countries, India's medical tourism market is projected to reach $9 billion by next year, a joint report from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Ernst & Young says.

That figure represents a threefold increase from 2015.

The report noted that the large cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata attract the most medical tourists who arrive in India.

About 234,000 medical tourists visited India in 2015, then more than doubled to 495,056 in 2017.

Medical tourists can receive the same treatment in India that they could in the U.S. or U.K., but at roughly half the cost.

About half of these tourists currently come from neighboring Bangladesh while the bulk of other medical travelers hail from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. While still relatively small in size, the number of medical tourists from U.S., Canada and Europe has been rising in recent years.

India currently boasts 38 hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission International, the leading authority on global healthcare practices. India has 619 hospitals accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers. In addition, the post-operative mortality rate in India is about 1.4%, versus 1.9% in the U.S.

Patients Beyond Borders reported India is one of the top destinations for organ transplants, especially for liver, kidney and pancreas.

Within India itself, different regions are competing for foreign medical tourists. The city of Kolkata attracts many travelers from Bangladesh due to its proximity.

A Bangladeshi man explained to India Media Group why he brought his wife to Kolkata for medical treatment.

“In Bangladesh we don’t have much well-developed medical infrastructure,” he said. “So we have to come here for better treatment and facilities. Also the travel time is less and cost is affordable, too.”

In the western state of Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant plans to increase medical tourism by improving standards of care.

“Tourists do come to Goa for medical treatment here, but they don’t get proper treatment and get cheated,” he said. “We need to amend some laws in order to promote medical tourism.”

Goa’s director of tourism Sanjiv Gauns Dessai said that medical tourism will increase “as several super specialty medical facilities are being opened in the state both by the government and private [sectors]. World-class medical facilities, trained professionals and top quality infrastructure — all this makes Goa the place for medical tourism. The modern medical institutions set up in Goa regularly promote medical tourism and wellness packages.”

Dessai added: “One can now choose from many healthcare packages such as dentistry, cardiac care, cosmetic surgery, yoga, complete body health profile, women’s health plan, cancer profile, ayurvedic, homoeopathic and others.”

In August, the Indian government made it easier for foreigners to receive medical treatment without necessarily applying for a medical visa (excluding organ transplants).

“Earlier medical visas were much costlier than tourist visas, and for a patient, it was very difficult to first go to a foreign regional registration office and register themselves, all of which now has been completely eliminated,” Dr. Harish Pillai said.

“The strength of India lies in the skills of our doctors, support staff, caliber of our nurses and the state-of-the art infrastructure which has come up in the last few years, some of which are still not available even in very developed economies," said Darpan Jain, joint secretary for the Department of Commerce's Ministry of Commerce & Industry.

Pillai further noted foreign patients coming to India do not pay domestic rates for medical care; rather, they pay a premium which, in turn, attracts more private investments and capital, leading to better infrastructure and better technology.

“You can cross-subsidize your domestic patients because of that. The boost which comes from this kind of payer mix is what the government of India needs to educate the states,” Pillai added.

The global medical tourism market is expected to exceed more than $135 billion by 2024.