Ayurveda-wellness tourism sector in Kerala seeks help to achieve full potential

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Ayurveda-wellness tourism sector in Kerala seeks help to achieve full potential
28-May-24 07:33:43

The state has at least 450 genuine traditional Ayurveda centres, properties and resorts.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Despite ayurveda being one of the renowned attractions of the state, tourism stakeholders express dissatisfaction and claim that Kerala Tourism has failed to harness its full potential.

It is learnt that the ayurveda and wellness industry contributes to 70-80% of the tourism sector’s foreign exchange revenue. They allege that the tourism department is misallocating resources and neglecting the globally recognised Ayurveda sector. The glass bridge and floating bridge projects, expected to become significant tourist attractions, have not lived up to expectations. Critics argue that these projects do not leverage Kerala’s unique strengths.

In 2021 and 2022, foreign exchange earnings from tourism amounted to Rs 461.50 crore and Rs 2,792.42 crore respectively. In 2020 fiscal, the foreign exchange earnings stood at Rs 2,799.85 crore. Before the Covid pandemic, the foreign exchange earnings stood at Rs 10,271.06 crore.

Though ayurveda tourism has contributed significantly to the economy of Kerala, with a revenue of Rs 35,168.42 crore in 2022, the stakeholders feel that Kerala Tourism is not earmarking enough funds for promoting and marketing ayurveda tourism nationally and internationally.

Kerala has at least 450 genuine traditional ayurveda centres, properties and resorts. “Kerala has always been synonymous with ayurveda. Tourists from across the globe come here seeking authentic wellness experiences. Monsoon is expected to arrive by May end but the tourism department has done nothing to promote ayurveda wellness and monsoon tourism which bring a large share of foreign exchange earnings to the state. The Tourism sector generates more foreign exchange earnings than the IT or fisheries sectors. Unfortunately, this segment is being neglected,” said Sajeev Kurup, president of the Ayurveda Promotion Council (APC).

Stakeholders feel that the involvement of the state government and tourism department has come down to zero when it comes to promoting ayurveda wellness tourism.

“People from all over the world know the healing touch of ayurveda and want to experience it. Many of us have been in this industry for over three decades and we have invested a lot and it’s our responsibility now to bring our clients from all over the globe so that we can generate revenue and meet the running cost,” said Sajeev.

According to stakeholders, the ayurveda sector is providing livelihood for a minimum of 30,000 people. The industry expressed deep disappointment as Kerala Tourism didn’t take part in the Arabian Travel Mart held in May.

“There was no presence of Kerala Tourism at the Arabian Travel Mart. Arab countries are a potential market for Kerala. When Kerala experiences monsoon, it’s summer in Arab countries. Monsoon is the ideal time for ayurveda treatment. We the stakeholders are independently doing the marketing without the help of the government,” said Baby Mathew, CMD, Somatheeram Ayurveda Group.

He alleged that the advisory committee under the tourism department hasn’t met for more than a year. “Earlier they used to call meetings every six months. We used to get the opportunity to raise our concerns. Now no interaction is happening, said Baby Mathew, who is also the executive member and immediate past president of Kerala Travel Mart.

Kerala Tourism has hosted one of the biggest investors’ meets recently to woo investments. According to the stakeholders, the department is doing nothing to help these investors build their businesses.

Ayurveda sector expecting more arrivals this season

With monsoon around the corner, ayurveda retreat and wellness facilities in Kerala are flooded with enquiries from across the globe. “We have started getting enquiries and we are hoping the monsoon will arrive as per the prediction. We have started giving bookings from the first week of June,” said Sanjeev Kurup.

NRIs are the biggest clientele arriving for ayurveda treatment during monsoon. International arrivals will peak during September and October.

“There is no point in doing marketing and promotions now. We should have planned six months earlier so that the state gets more arrivals for ayurveda wellness tourism. We all know the monsoon will arrive in the state in June or July,” he added. Many feel that continued promotion is the key as many other countries and states have started to promote ayurveda as their unique product to woo foreign tourists.

“Sri Lanka has been doing promotions and they are even claiming that ayurveda originated in their country. Many other states are also tapping the potential of ayurveda and every new tourism property has an ayurveda component. We shouldn’t fall behind and hence the government should take efforts to ensure continued promotions throughout the year. The government should earmark dedicated funds for ayurveda promotion and study potential global markets and do marketing accordingly,” said Baby Mathew.

International tour of ayurveda and yoga ambassadors planned Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan are the source markets of Kerala when it comes to ayurveda wellness tourism.

Lack of promotion and marketing from the tourism department has prompted the industry players to come up with their own innovative programmes to promote the segment.

The stakeholders are planning to organise international ayurveda and yoga ambassadors tour.

“We are doing extensive promotion to market our special packages. After COVID-19, people are conscious about their health and many believe that ayurveda can rejuvenate, strengthen and bring back their health to normal. The main flow of inbound ayurveda wellness travellers start from September end and will go up to March. Planning and marketing for ayurveda is lacking. We are getting results because of genuine efforts from the stakeholders,” said Ravi Varma, an ayurveda marketing consultant who has been in the industry for two decades.

“We will be taking these ambassadors from one end of Kerala to the other for ayurveda promotion across the globe. This year we are planning to tap the domestic market also by setting up stalls at all major metros across the country. All major travel agents and corporates will be invited for the programmes which we will organise in all major cities and metros,” he added.