GUWAHATI, Oct 27 - Medical tourism and higher education are two potential service sector industries for Assam, but due to various gaps � mostly related to infrastructure and connectivity � the State has not been able to tap it so far.
There is a relative shortage of colleges for professional education and local students travel to other states in pursuit of higher education, while lack of accredited hospitals in the region has lead to outflow of domestic demand and diversion of regional international demand, according to an Asian Development Bank report.
Of the 47,427 foreign students enrolled in India in 2018-19, 2,077 (4.4 per cent) were from Bangladesh. The Northeast can capture a major share of this market and Assam has a huge opportunity to tap into India�s share of students enrolled from BBN nations (Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal).
Also, 18 per cent (20,763) of the total outflow of students from South Asia enrolled in India in 2016-17. It was 1.3 per cent for Southeast Asia. However, Assam accounts for just 0.4 per cent of total foreign students enrolled India.
The report said commerce, engineering and management are the key streams for Assam to emerge as an education hub, but insufficient number of accredited institutions and lack of industrial collaboration and cutting edge research are key reasons hampering growth of this industry in Assam.
Other interventions required for making the institutions accessible is improving connectivity, providing immigration conveniences, internet penetration and scholarships.
The report further said India is one of the preferred destination for medical value travel, ranking fifth in the World Medical Tourism Index. Bangladesh is the largest foreign user of India�s medical services, accounting for 50.54 per cent of the total medical tourists in 2016 and the Northeast, particularly Assam, has the opportunity of becoming the natural choice for medical tourism from the neighbouring country.
�Assam has the potential to become a regional hub for medical value travel for South Asia. Accreditation and regulation are key for Assam to leverage India�s brand image for medical value travel,� the report said, pointing out to the lack of accredited hospitals in the State.
The report underlined the interventions required for promoting medical value travel like policy level incentives to attract big hospital chains to Assam, air connectivity with Southeast Asia, international collaboration of State medical institutions, network of advanced healthcare facilities, etc.
While over 50 per cent of inbound patients to India are from Bangladesh, 13 per cent are from Afghanistan, 7 per cent from Iraq, 6 per cent from Nepal and 3 per cent from Bhutan.