Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB), has identified the export value of the Sri Lankan Ayurveda services back in 2013 and facilitated the International Trade Centre (ITC) to carry out a Study on Sri Lankan Health Tourism industry.
Through the study it was identified the niche capabilities of the Sri Lankan Ayurveda and Wellness sector and the significance of synergy between the main two segments in terms of promotion.
As an eye-opener on the Ayurveda Industry capabilities, the EDB organized the Ayurveda and Indigenous sector participation at the ‘Reflection of Sri Lanka’ exhibition as the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2013. Some of the Global well known Sri Lankan Ayurveda resorts exhibited at this exhibition to increase the awareness of the general Public and they appreciated the opportunity given to showcase their capabilities. Also the EDB created separate WEB Page for the Health sector through the EDB website by providing the industry information and included the service offers and contacts of leading Ayurveda service providers as well in order to promote the sector through foreign buyers and medical and wellness travel companies.
National Export Strategy
These initiatives led the EDB to identify this health sector as a prominent export sector and in 2017 the sector selected as the key focus sector in National Export Strategy (NES). The Wellness Tourism Strategy was developed as part of the NES of Sri Lanka with three main objectives with development and promotional activities in collaboration with the Ayurveda, Western medical and Tourism sector stakeholders. The first objective concentrates on sector coordination and cohesion. Both the traditional wellness and the western medicine segments require clusters to organize and improve cooperation of stakeholders. The second objective focuses on regulation and quality assurance through standardization, licensing of activities and recognition of traditional healing in target markets and streamlining of institutional procedures. The third objective focuses on gathering more information on the sector through more effective collection of statistics and sharing sector information, both to the local population and to customers in target markets.
As the apex body for developing and promoting exports, the EDB formed an Industry Expert Committee comprising with the stakeholders from Department of Ayurveda, Ayurveda service export sector and western medical sector. Also a set of activities planned in order to promote the sector. As the committee urge the need of collaterals to promote the sector, the EDB created the brochure ‘Sri Lankan Ayurveda’. This brochure was created to promote the preventive and curative treatments of Sri Lankan Ayurveda and promoting Sri Lankan health offerings for non-communicable diseases suffered by the western world. The EDB circulated the brochure through Sri Lanka missions in key target markets.
Audio Visual ‘Healers
The EDB with the consultation of the industry also created an Audio Visual ‘Healer’s Paradise-Sri Lankan Ayurveda’ and its appeared in the EDB Web site to provide an industry insight and promote the Video internationally free of charge. This Audio Visual was promoted through Social media channels and the same was provided to the diplomatic officers in target markets with the aim of attracting medical and wellness travellers to Sri Lanka.
In 2016, the EDB invited Medical Travel Quality Alliance (MTQUA) of USA to conduct a seminar on quality standards for the Health and Medical Tourism sector. The aim was to create awareness on the significance of standards in order to provide assurance for the medical travellers on the quality of the service they obtain from Sri Lanka.
Concept of Wellness Tourism
The concept of Wellness Tourism is with a broader spectrum of niche health and medical services inherited by Sri Lanka, however it is undoubtedly the Ayurveda/Indigenous sector remains as the major contributor to this wellness tourism service followed by western medical service and other alternative medicines. The sector achieved this position within the short time spam considering the contribution to the export growth of the country. Following the National Export Strategy (NES), the EDB formed the Wellness Tourism Advisory Committee comprising leading private sector stakeholders and relevant government officials to drive the sector specific activities.
Aligning with the plan of actions of the Wellness Tourism Strategy of the NES, the EDB sought tie ups with world renowned figureheads and was able to invite Dr. Franz Linser, MD of Linser Hospitality, Austria and international wellness tourism expert from Austria for an awareness seminar in Colombo in early 2017.
Dr. Franz Linser hosted seminar by EDB
In the latter part of 2017, the EDB invited Stella Photi, Founder of Wellbeing Escape -UK in order to promote the sector in the UK market. The EDB facilitated Stella to visit leading Ayurveda resorts and provide her expertise on promotion. Also, Photi assisted EDB to promote the Wellness sector prominently Ayurveda services in UK market.
EDB kicks off groundwork to develop wellness tourism strategy, national brand for Sri Lanka
EDB is now taking the initiative of developing National Brand for Sri Lanka Wellness Tourism sector to position the sector internationally. Market Development Facility (MDF) of Australia and EU Delegation of Brussels are in collaboration with EDB by providing financial assistance to develop International Product, Market and Brand development initiative for Sri Lanka Wellness Tourism sector by obtaining the services of Linser Hospitality Austria.
The EDB kicks off the groundwork developing an international wellness tourism strategy and a brand development initiative in 2020, to position the country as a leading player in the US $ 2.6 trillion global wellness tourism industry, under the five-year National Export Strategy (NES).
The EDB procured the services of international consulting firm, Linser Hospitality GMBH, based in Austria, to undertake a ‘Rapid Assessment of the Potential Wellness Tourism Industry in Sri Lanka’ with financial and technical assistance from Australia’s Market Development Facility (MDF).
The EDB developed an Audio Visual for the Western Medical sector with the leading private hospitals. This AV to address different market segment within the wellness tourism spectrum. View the AV from following link https://youtu.be/tPAah9RMGJI
The EDB facilitated leading Ayurveda Resorts to participate at prominent trade events such as SIFTIS in China in May with the financial assistance from ITC, 2018 and Arab Health in Middle East in January in 2019 with the financial assistance from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Sri Lanka Tourism.
One of the big milestone is the Sri Lanka Participation at the WTM London organized by EDB with the assistance of Sri Lanka High Commission in UK and Sri Lanka Tourism in November 2019 as the Ayurveda sectors’ first ever participation at an international trade event. The Sri Lanka pavilion located in the Asian continent close to Sri Lanka Country pavilion organized by Sri Lanka Tourism, but with the authentic identity of the Sri Lankan wellness sector mainly Ayurveda. Six leading Ayurveda Resorts were participated at this event to promote their Ayurvedic offerings/treatments to the UK market and all the companies had nearly 50 -70 business meetings during this event at the Exhibition premises with prospective buyers/travel agents, international magazines etc. The pavilion designed with the tag line of Healers’ Paradise and promoted the ‘Mind, Body and Soul’ concept which is the core concept of Ayurveda.
The participants appreciated the assistance extended by EDB to promote the sector, specially differentiate the Health and wellness sector from general tourism with special emphasis with the Ayurveda sector.
Digital marketing campaign
A few leading international events are identified by the EDB to provide further promotions along with a digital marketing campaign in target markets. Establishment of the Sri Lanka wellness brand and global promotional campaign is in the pipeline. Also, the EDB is the main facilitator behind the Wellness Tourism Association which is to be established soon.
The EDB identified the wellness tourism mainly Ayurveda and health services as a key sector and initiated this international promotions to increase earnings from the service export sector. The EDB has created a platform for the different service segments to work together towards the economic development of the sector.
Also, the EDB is now in collaboration with the Department of Ayurveda to develop National Standards/Regulations forAyurveda Private Healthcare Institutions to regulate the industry. According to this process, the Department of Ayurveda has now developed the “Draft Rules and Regulations on Traditional Medicine (Medical Tourism) Institutions” (under the section 10 of the Ayurveda Act, No. 31 of 1961).
By developing these standards, all the private sector businesses that is the private healthcare hospitals, clinics and the Wellness centres which are carried out based on Ayurvedic principles will be regulated by the Department of Ayurveda to ensure safe and quality service for the medical travellers.