By Dr. Rekha Chaudhari,
With a renewed stress on holistic well-being, nutrition and rejuvenation, as an aftermath of the pandemic, there is a greater focus on Wellness Tourism. India, being a hub of holistic streams of medicine such as Ayurveda, homeopathy, naturopathy and Tibetan medicine, stands to gain with this trend. International travelers with wellness (or health) in mind are looking for services that are based on local traditions and natural assets.
Wellness tourism is now a much sought-after facet of tourism. Tourists are increasingly and consciously integrating health aspects in their travel itineraries and are exploring traditional wellness methods. India’s geographical positioning being the birthplace of Ayurveda and yoga, coupled with its natural endowments and cultural attributes, make it ideal to benefit from these trends. These endowments & attributes will be hugely beneficial in India’s aspirations to harness a sustainable wellness tourism value chain that is deeply rooted in local communities and traditions. Wellness tourism therefore is a sector with a lot of potential – from providing employment to local communities to ushering in regional and collective prosperity. Moreover, the growing interest in prevention and rediscovery of natural healing qualities of nature and traditions support the integrated development of wellness and medical tourism.
Given the key trends in integrative healthcare approaches, Maharashtra has several competitive options and advantages as the Power of nature, the Power of Ayurveda, the Power of yoga, and ancient science have been widely used and traditional healing has long been practiced in the State.
Maharashtra has resources, tradition and opportunities. It can develop successful approaches for marketing its wellness offerings by showcasing the core concept of well-being.
Holistic tourism is based on alternative, complementary health and healing treatments and therapies aimed to balance body, mind, and spirit. This involves activities like yoga and meditation, Ayurveda centers visit; medicinal plants garden visit, tribal areas lifestyle observation, healthy traditional food, research, and many more. Historical places like Ajanta Caves which constitute ancient monasteries are perfect wellness worship places and can make a huge contribution to Maharashtra wellness tourism.
Spiritual tourism focuses on the search for higher meaning, transcendence and the connection to oneself and the universe. This can involve visits to spiritual sites, Indian mythology stories, Temples, Research centers, ashram visits, landscapes or retreats, and many more. Maharashtra has many spiritual places which are well equipped with facilities.
Tribal communities have symbiotic relationships with nature and follow traditional lifeways that improve health and wellness. Places like Gadchiroli and Toranmal which are dominated by tribal population should be developed to attract more tourists looking for lifestyle rooted in the culture of health and well-being.
The above two wellness categories can be the foundations for globally competitive wellness tourism offerings in Maharashtra.
Maharashtra needs to define its own wellness directions that will put the State in a competitive position and strengthen its position in the Asia region. Travelers looking for holism, spiritual services and programs often are well informed. They represent a small but dedicated segment who are happy to let go of certain aspects of their trip (for instance, travel time or comfort) in order to experience true holistic or spiritual experiences. This quality in these travelers is exceptionally important for the State since they are not looking for traditional ‘luxury’ and comfort in their journey. They are looking for authenticity and the State certainly has that.
A solid framework for the wellness tourism sector needs to be established for governance, quality assurance, regulation, and well-targeted promotion. This will allow the State to develop wellness services that are widely known and of high quality, while being sustainable and symbiotic with the local population.
Extensive efforts should be made to meet the following strategic objectives:
Strategic objective 1: Develop coordination between traditional and western health tourism
This objective concentrates on sector coordination and cohesion. Both the traditional wellness and western medicine segments require clusters to organize and improve the cooperation of stakeholders.
Strategic objective 2: Set up a quality assurance system for wellness and traditional health systems
The second objective focuses on regulation and quality assurance through standardization, licensing of activities, recognition of traditional healing in target markets, and streamlining of institutional procedures.
Strategic objective 3: Build information about the health tourism sector and its target markets
The third objective focuses on gathering more information on the sector through an effective collection of statistics and sharing of sectoral information. The objective of the Strategy should be to establish a clear framework to guide the Maharashtra wellness industry’s development so that the State becomes the preferred destination for well-being. Achieving this ambitious objective will depend on the industry’s ability to implement the activities defined in this Strategy, and it is recommended that the following interventions be implemented on priority to strengthen the institutional framework governing the wellness tourism sector and its policies:
∙ Build the operational, business, and innovation capabilities of sector operators; and
∙ Establish the required regulatory framework to ensure the quality of wellness-related services.
These immediate quick-win initiatives are necessary to create rapid industry growth.
The key to achieving these targets will be the coordination of activities, monitoring of progress, and mobilization of resources for implementation. A public-private ‘advisory committee’ for the wellness tourism industry should be established, operationalized and empowered in order to carry out these tasks.
The world is looking towards India and States like Maharashtra more seriously in today’s current situation. It’s up to how the State optimizes this golden opportunity and crafts a strong script for wellness tourism travelers.
“Wellness tourism is a planned slate, we need an artist to write on it.’
(The author is MD of Onelinewellness and Global wellness ambassador India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)