Adept policy measures may well put India on the path to becoming a wellness tourism hub
Thanks to its undisputed prowess in traditional medicine systems that has developed over several millennia, India has the appeal for wellness tourists that few other places do. Our country must consolidate its strengths and capitalize on the opportunity at hand in the wellness tourism domain. A mix of adroit policy manoeuvres and adept marketing may well take India to the position of becoming the hub of wellness tourism.
Ayurveda and Yoga are age-old practices in Indian culture that have influenced many across the globe. As a form of traditional medicine, yoga, through movements, breathing and meditation, helps expand awareness, improve balance, increase intellect, lower anxiety, and manage weight to maintain good overall mental, physical, and emotional health. As the global center and home of the practice, India takes pride in being the hub of yoga, with the many world-class offerings of wellness resorts, ashram retreats and yoga meditation centers for those looking to indulge in wellness in self-care. The last decade has witnessed a rise in wellness tourism globally with the exponential growth of the wellness sector. Estimated at USD639.4 billion in 2017 by the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism is one of the fastest-growing tourism segments. Wellness tourism, globally, is growing at 6.5% annually, more than twice as fast as tourism overall. This segment is forecasted to grow even faster through 2022 at a yearly growth of 7.5% to reach USD919 billion. With a variety of offerings such as Yoga, Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Homeopathy, and Sowa Rigpa, apart from other wellness solutions, India’s wellness sector has immense potential for growth as it attracts tourists from all over the globe. We have, what it takes to become the holistic wellness capital of the world.
While the pandemic dented tourism forcing restricted access to locations – both domestic and international – it also highlighted the acute need for human development and preservation through wellness. People got increasingly aware of the need to become healthy by embracing drugless systems of medicine like yoga. As borders have opened, it is time India builds on the opportunity and highlights its age-old traditional wellness solutions to the world, attracting more and more travelers looking at the niche offerings in yoga, and Ayurveda. Wellness tourism helps people address issues of anxiety and mental health that have risen post the pandemic. As a nation that bought yoga to the world, India possesses a large pool of talent in the form of professionals with experience and expertise in delivering wellness solutions. Providing the right environment to indulge in wellness activities such as meditation, Ayurveda, and yoga to ensure people build mental and physical abilities, states across India are developing better facilities to enable them to attract wellness tourists. Centers across states such as Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala manage to attract wellness tourists and are investing in the creation of traditional ayurvedic resorts, destination spas, and wellness retreats that offer the complete experience of wellness treatments, and rejuvenation. More state governments must come forward and promote their wellness credentials aggressively, after working on setting up great infrastructure for wellness tourists on the ground.
In April this year, the union government also proposed bringing out special Ayush Visas to facilitate foreign arrivals of people looking at India as a destination for wellness tourism, along the lines of medical visas. We are serious about making India the world’s holistic wellness capital. Ever since its formation in 2014, the Ministry of Ayush has also left no stone unturned in promoting the Indian traditional medicine systems of Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, Homeopathy and Sowa Rigpa. In fact, in April this year, the Indian government tied up with the World Health Organization to set up the world’s first Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in Jamnagar, Gujarat. This Centre aims to bring together ancient wisdom and modern science to help meet global health objectives. The Centre will enable equity in access to healthcare as innovation was done here and will serve the poorest, most vulnerable people across the world, promoting good health and well-being for all. While its physical location will be in Jamnagar, Gujarat, the Centre’s reach, and impact will be global.
India’s expertise in traditional medicine is for all to see and it is a big draw in the global wellness tourism sector. With the pandemic forcing people to focus on personal health and wellness, India has an opportunity to become the global leader in wellness tourism by focusing on strengthening services provided for mental health, preventive healthcare, and overall physical and mental well-being. Our spiritual practices and the power of our traditional medicine systems help us provide holistic 360-degree solutions for holistic wellbeing.
It is not just international tourists who crave wellness tourism, but also domestic travellers. Indian travellers across all age groups are keen on wellness travel. The youth of our country are, increasingly, opting for experiences such as yoga and meditative retreats. Wellness tourism supports several small businesses across India as travellers seek experiences across various budgets, comfort, and luxury settings. Importantly, yoga and wellness tourism are sustainable as they utilize traditional medicine systems and practices which have a strong element of reverence for the environment.
The economic opportunity in wellness tourism is simply too big to be ignored. This opportunity must be utilized to the fullest by creating a world-class tourist infrastructure and then marketing it well. Wellness tourism supports India’s tourism and economic growth and can play a much bigger role. Yoga will be the driver for the wellness tourism sector in India as more and more travellers come to India in the pursuit of finding true happiness.
Authored by Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Tiwari, Professor and Principal, Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi