India is recognised globally for its wealth of wisdom in alternative therapies like ayurveda and yoga. But tourism operators complain that not enough is being done to promote such wellness facilities
In the late 60s, when The Beatles came to India, they visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram in Rishikesh, the pilgrim town in the foothills of the Himalayas. This spiritual quest by the fab four inspired many of their songs in the popular albums like 'Abbey Road' and 'White Album'.
Such a trip by a foreigner today would be labelled a 'wellness tour'. An increasing number of foreigners are visiting the country these days in search of alternative therapies, while enjoying a holiday at peaceful locales, opening up vast revenue-earning potential for the tourism industry.
Yes, India is recognised globally for its wealth of wisdom in areas of ayurveda and yoga, the principal alternative therapies sought today. And these are being promoted along with naturopathy and spiritual philosophy which is so integral to the Indian way of life. However, according to industry representatives not enough is being done to promote and market wellness tourism to exploit the potential in the country.
Zelam Chaubal, director, Kesari Tours, says, "Wellness tourism is and has been developed in India since a long time, but it has not been marketed and taken advantage off. When it comes to marketing and promoting our heritage or whatever good we have with us we are weak in it. The most important factor is infrastructure, and we lack in it."
Increasing work pressure and a stressful lifestyle are leading more and more travellers, who are going on a holiday, to seek facilities like spas, yoga, ayurveda and fitness centres. "India is becoming a medical and wellness hub as medical treatment here is available at much lower costs than in the Western world. People have started travelling to India for medical and wellness treatment. So there are properties that have been developed in that way too." Mrs Chaubal said. "Usually Indians enjoy this for a week or so, but inbound tourists come here and spend an average 15 days to month(s)."
Manoj Gurshahani, director of travel, Travelmartin.com, explained with an example: "A foreigner will come to, say for instance in Jaipur, for dental surgery, which hardly takes a day's time. The rest of the time he/she is relaxing and shopping. Such numbers of travellers are increasing and it needs to be promoted well."
Among various destinations in India, there are a few places that are preferred for the facilities they have developed. Like Kerala with its spas and backwaters, and Rishikesh, a hub of spirituality. "Kerala is a very good example in India where wellness tourism is developed, and Indians as well as foreigners are availing of the facilities here on a large scale. Atmasantulan village at Karla, near Lonavala in Maharashtra, is another example. Ananda spa at Rishikesh is world renowned facility that promotes wellness tourism," says Mrs Chaubal.
Recently, inaugurating the national workshop on promotion of wellness tourism, Union minister for tourism Subodh Kant Sahay, announced guidelines for wellness centres. "These guidelines have been developed by the National Accreditation Board for Hospital & Healthcare Providers (NABH) and approved by the Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. The wellness centres accredited as per these guidelines will give a level of confidence to the tourist and those availing of the wellness services…" an official statement said.
Minister of state for tourism Sultan Ahmed was quoted in the statement as saying, "It is essential for destinations to create unique travel experiences on an emotional, physical, intellectual and even spiritual level. Wellness has been the USP of Indian tourism. And that wellness tourism is now creating major opportunities for destinations, resorts, spas, hotels and other smaller businesses throughout the tourism industry."
Campaigns like "Incredible! India" are promoting the tourism industry as a whole, but more such campaigns are needed to specifically promote wellness tourism. "Wellness tourism can be a major source of revenue for the tourism industry if promoted properly. Marketing is a weak point, more promotional activities like 'Incredible! India', which is one of the successful promotional campaigns, are required," Mr Gurshahani said.