India’s Ministry of Tourism is hoping to promote a new perception and better understanding of yoga and Ayurveda as a holistic way of life to attract more health-conscious, high-end travellers deeper into India.
In an interview with TTG Asia at the recent ITB Berlin, Alphons Kannanthanam, the minister of state for tourism, said: “There is already a strong fan base for yoga and Ayurveda, but there are misunderstandings that yoga is just a form of exercise and that Ayurveda is a spa treatment. If we are able to (correct) that misperception, we will be able to attract more health-conscious travellers to India and perhaps even more millennials, as this is a generation that greatly values a balanced way of life.”
B Venkatesh, senior general manager, inbound-sales, with Cox & Kings India, agrees, further explaining that yoga and Ayurveda on their own “can be practised anywhere in the world” but only when they are combined and recognised as a serious medical solution will they be strong magnets for health-conscious travellers.
Kannanthanam believes that yoga and Ayurveda will help drive international arrivals deeper into India, away from just the big cities, and bring much needed tourism spend to the rural communities. This is because “yoga and Ayurveda are often practised in quieter, rural districts”, he explained.
“Furthermore, as yoga and Ayurvedic retreats are often lengthy, running for a week or more, we will be able to keep travellers longer with us and have them spend more in the community for lodging, food, sightseeing and others,” he remarked.
The minister pointed out that these wellness retreats “don’t come cheap”, which fulfils India’s desire to attract higher yielding travel markets.
According to Biju George, director-overseas marketing, Somatheeram Ayurveda Group, a seven-night package inclusive of accommodation, treatments and full-board meals could cost from 875 euros (US$1,083) for a single standard room to 7,532 euros for a 14-night double deluxe suite.
Somatheeram Ayurveda Group is recognised as one of India’s leading Ayurveda specialist provider, offering five resorts in Kerala and treatments that are certified by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers.
Venkatesh noted that there are also ultra-luxury resorts in India that offer a combination of yoga and Ayurveda, such as Ananda in the Himalayas and Carnoustie Ayurveda & Wellness Resort, where treatments carry a hefty price tag of 9,000 euros and up per person for a week of stay and treatments.
“Wellness travellers are rarely price-sensitive, as their focus is on tuning their bodies and mind, and recovering from whatever that ails them,” he said.
While Cox & Kings India gets wellness demand from all over the world, Somatheeram Ayurveda Group sees Europe as its dominant market, making up 75 per cent of bookings.
Baby Mathew, chairman and managing director of Somatheeram Ayurveda Group, hopes to do more to court travellers from Asia where he has seen stronger interest in recent times.
“We will open our sixth resort this November, the five-star Somatheeram Amruth in Kerala. With more room inventory and treatment facilities, we will be better able to attract even more people,” Mathew said.