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.
With oil and precious metal prices hitting record highs due to the West Asian turmoil, investors are keenly watching the government’s reaction to the developments
The Indian market is likely to witness a negative opening today, paring some gains after the splendid performance on Tuesday, a day after the presentation of the Union Budget. Stock markets in India were closed on Wednesday for a local holiday. However, with oil and precious metal prices hitting record highs due to the West Asian turmoil, investors are keenly watching the government’s reaction to the developments. Besides, the weekly food inflation figures are expected to be announced later in the day, giving further direction to the market.
On the global front, markets in the US closed with marginal gains on Wednesday getting support from positive economic indicators while the Asian pack was trading with modest gains in early trade today, brushing aside fears related to spiralling crude prices. The SGX Nifty was 75 points lower at 5,480 compared to its previous close of 5,555.
Positive economic indicators pushed up markets in the US ensuring a close with marginal gains overnight. Improvements in the labor market were driven by increasing retail sales and ‘solid growth’ in manufacturing, the Federal Reserve said in its Beige Book report on Wednesday.
Private employers added more jobs than expected last month, the ADP Employer Services report said. Employment increased by 217,000 last month after a revised 189,000 gain in January, beating analysts’ expectations for a gain of 180,000 jobs. The strong numbers come ahead of Friday's closely watched non-farm payrolls report.
On the corporate front, Apple gained after the company’s CEO Steve Jobs took the stage to unveil the second version of the iPad, returning to the spotlight after a brief medical absence. Yahoo gained over 3% after news the Internet site is in talks to exit its joint venture in Japan with SoftBank.
The Dow gained 8.78 points (0.07%) at 12,066.80. The S&P 500 added 2.11 points (0.16%) at 1,308.44 and the Nasdaq rose 10.66 points (0.39%) at 2,748.07.
Brushing aside worries relating to the implications over the turmoil in West Asia, markets in Asia were in the green in early trade on Thursday. Bargain-hunting after yesterday’s sharp decline also supported the gains. Meanwhile, South Korea's industrial output in January expanded by a much faster-than-expected 4.6% from December, data showed on Thursday.
The Shanghai Composite gained 0.27%, the Hang Seng rose 0.23%, the KLSE Composite advanced 0.40%, the Nikkei 225 was up 0.53%, the Straits Times surged 0.97%, the Seoul Composite jumped 1.42% and the Taiwan Weighted rose 0.88% in early trade.
US crude rose 31 cents to $102.54 a barrel in Asian trade on Thursday, after hitting a high of $102.94. It had settled at $102.23 a barrel in the previous session, closing above $100 for the first time since September 2008.
Brent crude rose 23 cents to $116.58 per barrel on Thursday. Brent had settled 93 cents higher at $116.35 a barrel, the highest settlement since 21st August 2008 and traded as high as $117.81 during the previous session.
Gold edged lower on Thursday after hitting record highs in two consecutive sessions on spreading unrest in the Middle East. Spot gold edged down 0.2% at $1,431.70 an ounce after striking a record high of $1,440.10 in the previous session. U.S. gold futures inched down 0.4% at $1,432.40.
Back home, UK Sinha, the new chief of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has sought fast-track resolution of long-running investigations being conducted by the market regulator, some of which are over a decade old.
Seeking to cut down on huge backlog of thousands of cases of suspected violation of various SEBI regulations, Mr Sinha has asked his investigation officers to expedite probes and resolve the cases at the earliest with necessary enforcement actions.
Keeping in view of the ever-rising usage of the system, the central bank has decided to replace the existing RTGS system with a Next-Generation Real Time Gross Settlement (NG-RTGS) system
New Delhi: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) plans to upgrade its high-value online fund transfer system, Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS), to enable handling of up to 50 lakh transactions a day and incorporate various new facilities for the bank customers, reports PTI.
The RTGS system facilitates online transfer of high-value funds between bank customers of different banks on real-time basis and currently handles about three lakh transactions per day.
Ever since the RBI started RTGS system in March 2004, it has been highly successful and is a preferred mode of inter-bank transfer of large-value funds by the customers of various banks, as funds get transferred almost instantaneously.
Keeping in view of the ever-rising usage of the system, the central bank has decided to replace the existing RTGS system with a Next-Generation Real Time Gross Settlement (NG-RTGS) system, a senior official said.
The new system would be implemented for the entire banking and financial sector of the country and the exercise of replacing the existing RTGS system would be executed in various phases.
Currently, RTGS system, under which funds worth Rs2 lakh or more can be transferred instantaneously, is handling an average of 3 lakh transactions per day, up from only 4,000 transactions when it was launched in 2004.
The RBI expects 7 lakh transaction per day through RTGS very soon, 25 lakh transactions per day in five years and then about 50 lakh transactions per day in next 10 years.
To take care of the growing popularity of the system and a need for more robust fund-transfer system in an expanding economy, the RBI has decided to upgrade the existing system, the official said.
The new system would have initial capability of handling 7-12 lakh transactions a day and an upgradation potential of 25-50 lakh transactions every day, the official added.
Besides, the new system would also incorporate various new functions for the benefit of bank customers.
The NG-RTGS system would have advanced liquidity management features and queue management techniques and would allow the bank customers to initiate fund transfers for future dates and get information about the status of their transactions through SMS alerts.
As part of the project, the RBI has already sought expressions of interest from potential technology vendors and system integrators for implementing the new system.
The decision to upgrade the existing system was taken after a working group, comprising of representatives from RBI and select banks such as SBI, Punjab National Bank, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank, submitted its report in August 2010 for implementation of the NG-RTGS.
The entire implementation of the new system is expected to be completed within two years.