Brunch

Sri Lanka among Top 5 Wellness Tourism Destinations globally 

  • What does this mean for us?

The wellness tourism sector in Sri Lanka is heading towards rapid growth and can be considered a niche market for the country because of its potential to attract foreign investment and revenue generation. According to the Global Wellness Institute, Sri Lanka has been ranked number four on the World’s Top Wellness Tourism Destinations.

The Government, too, has recognised wellness tourism as a key sector for investors; Sri Lanka was recently ranked among the Top 5 Wellness Tourism Destinations globally, as confirmed by Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga.

Although this aspect of tourism has potential, it has to be nurtured carefully in collaboration with the industry stakeholders from both government and private sectors.

While wellness tourism was once single dimensional and was restricted to pampering spa vacations, nowadays wellness travel includes many combinations of healthy experiences including eating, cooking, exercise, and meditation.

While it is clear that Sri Lanka has the potential of being successful in marketing Ayurveda products to tourists who like to experience the relaxing aroma of Ayurveda products, Brunch spoke to a few professionals in the wellness sector to find out more.

Building the brand of wellness tourism

Spa Ceylon Co-Founder Shalin Balasuriya

Spa Ceylon Co-Founder Shalin Balasuriya commented that Sri Lanka has a lot to offer in terms of being a wellness tourism destination, starting with Ayurveda, which has been woven into our culture for 5,000 years. Apart from that, given how serene we are, how lush our country is, he observed that there is a lot that can be offered in terms of hiking, trekking, and outdoor activities that our climate and natural resources can offer.

“If you look at what happened during the pandemic, spices and herbs like turmeric and ginger came out as super ingredients and wonder herbs around the world, while us Sri Lankans have been using it in our diets for centuries, so our cuisine is also highlighted as something important,” he further explained.

Given that we are an island and our ports are very well controlled, Balasuriya opined that this gives a sense of safety as well. He shared: “There is a lot that can be done on our island from the wellness tourism point of view, so we are very well to do in this aspect; if we get our act together, we can offer something unique to the world.”

On the topic of what Spa Ceylon has to offer in terms of garnering wellness tourists, he explained that what they’ve been doing at Spa Ceylon is also taking the Sri Lankan Ayurvedic story to the world; and they’ve been doing it even throughout the pandemic. They have products that they have developed to de-stress and sleep better; two key factors that have plagued many during these difficult times. He added that the world has also awoken to our “wonder herbs” – from ashwagandha to turmeric, ginger to moringa – which they incorporate strongly in their products.

The fact that Spa Ceylon works with ancient science brings about a lot of interest in their brand by foreigners. “In every aspect, we make our customers feel welcome and safe. Using the Ayurveda platform and the fact that these ingredients that are indigenous to us have become so popular, we are taking our products to the world as well, in a way that it meets the needs of the new consumer,” he stated.

Hotels and resorts to offer wellness packages

Aaron Wick Yoga Founder and Annie Au Yoga Co-Founder and Partner Aaron Wickramasekara

When speaking to Aaron Wick Yoga Founder and Annie Au Yoga Co-Founder and Partner Aaron Wickramasekara, he shared that it’s really nice to see our country being back on top of this list, given that everyday there’s negative news coming up. “The lives of Sri Lankans are getting harder, but it’s because we haven’t had tourists coming in; we have lost a lot of income which is driving the rupee down which makes the cost of living higher,” he stated.

Wickramasekara stated that it certainly is an advantage that tourism is opening up and hopes that nothing hinders the relaunch of the tourism sector in Sri Lanka.

That being said, he observed that there are many companies in Sri Lanka that have started wellness programmes; they have taken the time in the last year to build certain hotels and resorts that are catered solely around the wellness aspect in Sri Lanka. “These hotels and resorts will bring aspects that we haven’t seen in Sri Lanka and were only ever seen in the foreign market. In the next few months, big brands will launch their projects and once tourism opens up, we will see a boom in wellness tourism in particular, surrounding health, wellbeing, yoga, and mindfulness,” he commented. He also added that these projects are not just for foreigners, but for the local market as well.

Talking about the projects that he is personally involved in, he explained that they are trying to make wellness tourism accessible and make it a price point where it’s available to the local market as well. In terms of international exposure, he explained that he has a network of contacts of teachers around the world, who will come together and plan workshops in Sri Lanka, particularly in Colombo, and in the south and the hills as well.

The yoga market in Sri Lanka is very vague; more often than not, people have the wrong idea. Wickramasekara added: “I will try to expose the tourists that come into the various styles of yoga and aspects of it as I possibly can. I’m trying to expand the market and expand the horizons of the local market.”

By doing this, he is able to create new jobs and new potential. He aims to change the perspective as to what yoga is to locals, and spark the boom behind yoga.