Wellness tourism: the wellness in and for India
The SRI (Stanford Research Institute, an American non-profit research institute) International Study released at the 2013 Global Wellness Tourism Congress shows that the Wellness Tourism segment is already a near-half-trillion-dollar (USD 439 billion) market. It will surge to USD 678.5 billion by 2017, and that is nearly 50 per cent more growth than global tourism overall. Wellness Tourism also represents 14 per cent of the total global tourism revenue (USD 3.2 trillion), and will reach 16 per cent of total tourism revenue in four years.
More people find the unhealthy travel less attractive and personally unsustainable, and are seeking to have healthier experiences in both leisure and business travel. This is expected to increase the growth pace of wellness tourism. Health and wellness tourism in India witnessed substantial growth of 21% in 2012. This growth was driven by all the categories of medical tourism, hotel/resort spas, destination spas and other spas. The growth in medical tourism was observed due to the depreciation of the local currency in 2012, which resulted in cheaper procedures for foreigners. Furthermore, with the increase of annual disposable income and consumer expenditure at 12% and 13% respectively, consumers were more willing to spend on luxury treatments. As a result spas, including destination spas situated in neighbourhoods and for which consumers did not have to have to be a guest in a hotel/resort, performed strongly in 2012.
Even before the Beatles went on their famous pilgrimage to Rishikesh with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1969, India has been a popular travel destination for American tourists seeking serenity and spiritual growth. But in recent years, wellness travel to India has exploded. Spa experiences, healthy eating, opportunities for personal growth, yoga and meditation, fitness, stress reduction and holistic health are among the experiences sought by wellness travellers. A growing number of wellness retreats and spas are cropping up across India, from Dharamsala to Mysore, to accommodate the growing demand for holistic health-based travel. Also, the high stress in these rapidly-growing, industrialising countries like China, India and Brazil will make more people from these nations seek travel that offers true rejuvenation and health. Thus this could result in an increase of domestic wellness tourism in our country as well. Wellness Tourism in general, and for India specifically, is being fed by a rising, global consumer travel trend of more people seeking authentic, indigenous experiences, and looking to explore new cultures. India is perceived worldwide as one of the true spiritual homes of the modern wellness movement and has an ancient, rich history of Ayurveda, yoga and meditation. The SRI Study projects India to be number one globally for growth in Wellness Tourism over the next five years, clocking over 20 per cent gains annually through 2017.
“Over 20 million Americans and more than a quarter of a billion people worldwide now practise yoga. That is more than the populations of the UK, France, Germany and Italy put together. More people will now travel for the whole Ayurvedic ‘package’—pulse and dosha analysis by a qualified practitioner; Panchakarma, the multi-week detox; and dietary recommendations and coaching. Furthermore, the expectations of international wellness travellers to India have never been so well-met. There are many Indian properties and offerings—from the five-star to the much more affordable. When it comes to attracting wellness tourists to India, handled right, the results will multiply. And the new easier, more rational visa process for foreigners to visit India is really going to help”, says Susie Ellis, CEO and Chairman, Global Spa and Wellness Summit.
Many Indian spas are working towards striking the balance between authentic indigenous treatments that excite the international traveller, and more modern, ‘international’ styles of spas and products to lure the domestic tourists. Wellness and fitness markets will inevitably grow in India, and one factor that will fuel it is that over the last two decades the Indian population has adopted more western lifestyles, like fast food, smoking and sedentary desk jobs, all leading to an obesity and chronic disease (especially heart disease) crisis.
The marketing of spa and wellness in India is ahead of most countries. The visionary campaigns of ‘God’s Own Country’ to promote Kerala, or the ‘Incredible India’ campaign have heavily revolved around showcasing India’s wellness traditions. The potential of wellness systems, developed through centuries of wisdom of this ancient civilization would be fully tapped. This is being done by positioning India as a centre of Ayurveda, Yoga, Sidha, Naturopathy, etc. together with the spiritual philosophy that has been integral to the Indian way of life. Ministry of Tourism has drafted guideline for wellness tourism. These guidelines address issues regarding making available quality publicity material, training and capacity building for the service providers, participation in international & domestic Wellness related events, etc. Mushrooming of wellness centres in the country has given rise to the concern for quality service. The initiative of accreditation of wellness centres by National Board for Accreditation of Hospitals & Healthcare Services (NABH) propelled by the Ministry of Tourism, apart from helping in establishing quality services will also help the tourists to make a wise and well-served choice.