Wellness tourism is a term used to describe the rapidly growing practice of travelling across international borders to seek wellness medical services. India has an advantage here due to its indigenous healthcare practices as well as its reduced cost and availability of healthcare alternatives like Naturopathy, Homeopathy, traditional spas, and organic diets.
The total foreign tourist arrival in India in 2017 was 10.18 million with a growth of 15.6% over 2016. The total foreign tourist inflow from the US in 2016 was approximately 1.3 million. The Minister of State for tourism, K. J. Alphons in July, 2018, stated that the tourism sector had created 14.62 million job opportunities in the country in the last four years.
With an aim to rapidly increase international tourist arrivals in India, the Ministry of Tourism launched the Incredible India 2.0 campaign. This promotes India as an ideal destination for spiritual, wellness, and medical tourism.
How is India promoting wellness tourism?
The National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board has been constituted to ensure promotion. The Department of Commerce and Services Export Promotion Council launched a Healthcare Portal (www.indiahealthcaretourism.com) as a single source platform providing comprehensive information to medical travellers on the top healthcare institutions in the country in various languages. Medical and medical attendant visa has been introduced to ease the travel process of medical tourists.
Nurturing ancient practices of Ayurveda, Yoga, Sidha, and Naturopathy, India has established itself as an important wellness retreat among its domestic and international tourists. Ayurveda is an ancient Hindu system of medicine and wellness based on the notion of balance within the body. It emphasises herbal treatment and yogic breathing. Siddha and Unani are similar in their holistic approach to finding harmony between the mind and body, with the origins of Siddha lying in the southern state of Tamil Nadu while Unani can trace its roots to ancient Greece.
This traditional knowledge of healthcare, along with India’s reputation in modern, Western approaches, is fuelling the country’s rise in wellness tourism. They come under the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani,
Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), a government agency created in 2014 to improve access to and awareness of traditional methods.
Dr. Shahina, a consultant at the Nattika Ayurveda Resort situated at Thrissur, Kerela, told BE, “During their stay, the foreigners experience ‘Hatha Yoga’ with our guest yoga teacher Maria Alliaud, who comes from Argentina. She is trained at the renowned yoga institutions in Rishikesh and the Himalayas.”
Wellness tourism destinations
Now that wellness tourism is booming in India, a lot of destinations are also promoting themselves as a wellness tourist site. Besides independent wellness retreats, most hotels and resorts have included wellness facilities in their programmes. This in turn is attracting a lot of foreign nationals to the country.
Kerala is a renowned wellness tourism destination, with Ayurveda being its USP. Its backwaters are popular wellness retreats. Among the various centres known for their therapeutic qualities is Kalari Kovilakom, situated close to the Annamalai Hills.
Niraamaya in Kovalam is another globally acclaimed spa, with their therapists trained in yoga, meditation, authentic Thai, traditional Asian therapies, and Western relaxation techniques. The Carnoustie Ayurveda and Wellness Resort in Kerela offers Ayurvedic treatments based on a 5000-year-old legacy of natural healing.
Goa is fast emerging as a wellness tourism destination. It brings together the essential elements of Panchakarma, through popular retreats like Devaaya - Ayurveda and Nature Cure Centre. Mandala, on the banks of Ashvem River, makes one feel at peace while the body detoxifies through well-researched treatments.