Sri Lanka looks to shed massage parlour image for billion dollar wellness industry
ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s wellness industry is looking to shake off a bad reputation in order to attract tourists and hire people who are wary of the ubiquitous shady massage parlours and spas known for their ‘happy endings’.
The global wellness industry is estimateda at 3.7 trillion US dollars, with wellness tourism accounting for 563 billion US dollars according to the Global Wellness Institute, and Sri Lanka wants a piece of this pie, but quality remains a major concern.
"Wellness tourism industry operators have trouble finding employees and professionals to work in their establishments, especially spa, massage or Ayurvedic doctors,"the document titled National Export Strategy: Wellness Tourism said.
"The wellness sector has a bad image among the local population, which is then reluctant to engage in wellness careers.
"There is also the widespread idea that ‘women are not fit for tourism,’ and a cultural bias that sometimes makes working in the wellness tourism industry shameful for women, " the document said.
Qualifications are not regulated either making it difficult for people to identify genuine wellness service providers such as Ayurvedic clinics and spas. Another obstacle is that insurance companies don’t recognise traditional medicine.
Sri Lanka is looking to establish a national certification system for wellness and traditional medicine service providers, which will be complemented by international certification options to support the western medicine segment.
Curricula will be developed for universities on tourism, hospitality, global trends, marketing and branding and traditional medicine to "promote the wellness and traditional health sector…as a promising and valuable career path and a way to promote Sri Lanka’s traditions and reputation in the world through tourism," the wellness strategy document said.
International and domestic hotel chains will be encouraged to run wellness-related services which will be certified and authenticated by a recognised government body.
Sri Lanka will also promote single, self-contained facilities and resort complexes with certified wellness oriented service or hospital-to-hotel facilities and health hotels where Ayurveda is applied as a lifestyle philosophy but not specifically for healing or wellness.
Wellness has emerged as a global phenomenon.
Wellness can come in many different forms from medicine, lifestyle, food and clothing.
"International travellers with wellness in mind look for services that are based on local traditions and natural assets," the strategy document said.
These include Ayurvedic resorts, ashrams, hotels, spas, beauty clinics and salons, and restaurants that focus on healthy, holistic living and spiritual wellbeing
"There is growing demand for hotels with a health orientation, as well as for facilities with a well-defined specialization or concept," the strategy document said.
Sri Lanka has strategic advantages for the development of its wellness tourism sector.
The country has natural and traditional endowments that can be used to foster a sustainable wellness tourism value chain that is deeply rooted in local communities and traditions.
National Export Strategy: Wellness Tourism has set out plans to explore synergies with medical tourism combining both Ayurvedic and modern medicine.
The wellness tourism segment is a nascent industry in Sri Lanka and has no dedicated policies, institutions, regulations, statistics or specific support programmes.
"This Strategy aims to build an effective support framework, which is currently missing, and to take advantage of the great potential represented by the sector and the current offer diversification process," the strategy document said.
Sri Lanka’s wellness sector is difficult to quantify and reliable statistics about offerings and tourism arrivals to this segment are lacking.
Sri Lanka’s wellness strategy has three-broad gaols: to develop coordination in traditional and modern health tourism, set up a quality assurance system for wellness and traditional health systems and build information about the Sri Lankan health tourism sector and about its target markets.(COLOMBO, 12 October 2018)