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Wellness Industry 01 Dec 2016

Wellness Tourism boom and a billion-dollar opportunity

Wellness Tourism is estimated to grow nearly 50 per cent faster than global tourism by 2017, and a significant contribution to this will come from Asia.

By Pragati Ratti Sharma Associate Editor

The Indian medical tourism industry, which is pegged at $3 billion, is expected to reach $8 billion by 2020, according to a CII - Grant Thornton white paper. Wellness Tourism is estimated to grow nearly 50 per cent faster than global tourism by 2017, and a significant contribution to this will come from Asia, states a recent study by SRI International.

India is attracting tourists seeking serenity and optimum health and is emerging as one of the fastest-growing modern spa and wellness markets in the world. While Kerala leads the way, places like Rishikesh are also seeing an inflow of tourists seeking Ayurvedic treatments. As a result, wellness tourism is paving way for huge opportunities in the medical, wellness and beauty sector across the country.

Indian brands eyeing the wellness tourism pie

Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old practice, originated in India. Since then, it has made its way throughout the globe. However, it is only in the past couple of years that Ayurveda has found its calling in India in a larger sense. Ayurveda brands are tapping the opportunities and growing into resorts to grab a pie in the growing market of health and wellness tourism.

“The wellness tourism sector in India is definitely growing! At Keva, we haven’t promoted any wellness tourism, but at least a couple of patients come from places like Dubai, Madagascar, Malaysia, US, UK. We got a call from Dubai asking why we don’t tie up with a wellness tourism agent,” says Dr Krishna Kumar, Founder, Keva Ayurveda. He also adds, “We have 2-3 investors coming in as we are planning to set up a resort in Chikmagaloor. It’ll be a complete integrated resort.”

Similarly, 120-year-old Vasudeva Vilasam Group is also eyeing massive expansion owing to the wellness tourism boom. Dr Pradeep Jeothi, Managing Director, Vasudeva Vilasam Group, says, “For the next three years, our basic plan is to increase our wellness centres. We want to have about 500 wellness centres throughout India by 2025. We have actually signed an agreement with the government of India to train 1 lakh therapists in 5 years’ time. So, there is a huge requirement and it’s an opportunity. Unless we have trained therapists, there’s no point in setting up wellness centres.”

Shathayu Ayurveda Wellness Centre, a 112-year old global Ayurvedic brand that offers unique concepts with no direct competitors, has established 16 clinics in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune as well as in international cities like Texas, USA and Perth, Australia. The brand is expected to launch its first Ayurveda resort in the near future. Other well-known reputed brands like Kairali Ayurveda currently operate 11 international and 16 regional wellness centres with franchise models across various budgets and center types (residential and non-residential).

The potential

Thailand remains a leader in health and wellness tourism and Indian brands are taking inspiration from Thai spas and getting Thai massages to India to deliver world class treatments. Ananda, Maya, Sereno are some of the top names in the spa market. Ayurveda brand – big and small – are realizing the need of setting up their own spa resorts along with their clinics while taking inspiration from the Thailand wellness tourism sector.

"Amongst the corridors of health, India has the second largest number of accredited facilities (after Thailand). The Indian Medical Tourism market is expected to grow from its current size of USD 3 billion to USD 7-8 billion by 2020," Grant Thornton India's National Managing Partner Vishesh C Chandiok says.

The scope of opportunities stretches beyond just Ayurveda. “The buck does not stop with Ayurveda, Yoga and Meditation as the country also has other less-popular but effective therapies Siddha, Kalari and MarmaChikitsa, etc which promise to open more growth avenues,” says Vijaykumar Karai, Founder & CEO, AyurUniverse.

And, as Paritosh Ladhani, Joint MD, Radisson Blu Agra puts it, “We can become the biggest wellness industry in the world. The only issue is that if we don’t act right now, all the wellness industry will move to the south. I think we have beautiful locales in North India as well. There are people who are interested in investing in North India as well if the government supports us. I think that will happen very soon.”

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