In 2017, the global wellness tourism segment, valued at $639 billion, had a growth rate of 6.5%, outstripping the growth rate of the aggregate global tourism sector - which was growing at 3.2% in that period. During the same period, India ranked seventh in the top 20 wellness tourism markets and tenth among the top 20 spa markets. Additionally, it ranked third in both the top ten wellness tourism markets and the top ten spa markets in the Asia-Pacific region. Yoga and Ayurveda are the two most popular components in India’s wellness tourism segment.
A recently published report titled ‘Global Wellness Tourism Economy’ by the Global Wellness Tourism Institute has forecasted that by 2022, the global wellness tourism segment is going to witness a faster growth - at 7.5% annually - to reach $919 billion.
According to available data, Indians made 56 million wellness related trips, both domestic and international, in 2017 (a growth of 45% over 2015), which included expenditures worth $16.3 billion. Also, India ranked second in terms of leading growth markets for wellness tourism, depicting an average annual growth rate of 20.3% from 2015 to 2017, adding a little over 17 million wellness trips. Some of the important places for wellness tourism in India include Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa and New Delhi among others. While speaking about the emerging wellness tourism market in Kerala, Rani George, Secretary, Kerala Tourism, told BE, “Kerala has well-established authentic Ayurveda centres and so itgets both foreign and domestic tourists for Ayurveda. However, the foreign tourists contribute to the major share of our revenues.”
Dr. Debasis Panja, Production Manager, Ayurvedic Division, East India Pharmaceutical Works Limited, told BE, “Due to changing lifestyle patterns, the common man is facing threats due to the severe side-effects of synthetic drugs. So, people are rushing back to the old and time-tested
Ayurvedic system of therapies.” He added, “The wellness centres are providing a model in promoting rejuvenation packages which includes detoxification of body, mind and soul.”
In order to promote wellness tourism, the National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board has been constituted by the Ministry of Tourism. The ‘Annual Report 2019-20’ of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India states that the ministry provides financial assistance under the Market Development Assistance Scheme (MDA) to wellness centres accredited by state governments and by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH). Additionally, the ‘Incredible India Campaign’ also played an important role in the promotion of yoga, ayurveda and in promotion of wellness tourism in India.
Despite the growth of wellness tourism, the sector continues to face various challenges. In the article, ‘Opportunities and Challenges in Wellness Tourism in India’, Mandeep Bharti, Research Scholar, Department of Tourism, Hermitage Kumaun University, wrote, “The quality of spas in India is now being questioned internationally. The Quality Council of India and the Ministry of Tourism has taken the first step to extend the National Accreditation Board for Hospital and Wellness Centers (NABH) certification for spas and wellness centres.” Industry insiders are of the opinion that this segment also faces stiff competition from Asian countries, especially Sri Lanka. The recent coronavirus outbreak may also affect wellness tourism in Asia due to flight restrictions.