The Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB), is working to generate more revenue, particularly foreign exchange through ayurvedic services by catering to niche markets which are growing fast. An emphasis on this sector has been placed in the National Export Strategy (NES) where wellness tourism is a major component.
“Wellness tourism includes Ayurveda, the Western medical sector, yoga, meditation, spa and relaxation activities. This is a sector where tourists spend four-five folds more and measures are needed to regulate the sector to attract tourists which is a high-end product,” Director General, EDB, Jeevani Siriwardena said.
There has been a holistic approach towards the wellness tourism sector by several institutions, including Ayurveda Department, Ministry of Health, EDB, and Foreign Ministry. The country will be geared to meet the growing demand for this kind of services and to this end, required standards and regulatory measures will be taken by the government, she said.
The EDB has identified the export value of the Sri Lankan Ayurveda services in 2013 and facilitated the International Trade Centre (ITC) to carry out a study on the Sri Lankan Health Tourism industry. The study 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.
“There is an increasing trend in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country and an ayurveda related approach has been the choice of many. This has created a huge demand for the services locally and internationally and it is necessary to improve the service to ensure high standards are maintained,” Deputy Director, Technical-Medical, Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Dr. T. Weerarathna said.
It is necessary to focus on the quality of practitioners, education, products, safety, quality and efficiency. It is encouraging to note that the government has taken steps to provide and pay emphasis on ayurveda education. A university degree up to Masters level has been offered to selected students. This has ensured the high standards of the ayurvedic services. There has been a project to preserve ayurveda knowledge. To this end, a research centre to collect data and identify ayurveda practitioners is in place, he said.
Dr. Weerarathna said that health tourism has two components of medical and wellness tourism. It is necessary to set up regulated healthcare facilities in the country to promote health tourism in a sustainable manner. The concept includes spa, meditation and yoga to ensure well-being and prevent illness. There is a four fold promotion to achieve desired results, he said.
The Department of Ayurveda has drafted regulations to ensure quality, standards and safety. There will be accreditation and guidelines for ayurvedic practitioners. With a view to ensure credibility of service, an Act will be introduced with specific rules and regulations shortly. The EDB is working in collaboration with the Department of Ayurveda to develop National Standards/Regulations for Ayurveda 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 Section 10 of the Ayurveda Act, No. 31 of 1961).
A pilot project to set up wellness centres is currently underway to promote the sector in a regulated environment, he said.
Practitioners in the wellness tourism industry have endorsed the formation of the Sri Lanka Wellness Tourism Association (SLWTA).
The EDB has identified the 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. The traditional wellness and the western medicine segments need clusters to organise and improve cooperation among stakeholders.
The second objective focuses on regulation and quality assurance through standardisation, 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, to the local population and to foreigners in target markets.
The concept of Wellness Tourism is with a broader spectrum of niche health and medical services inherited by Sri Lanka. However, 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.
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.
By developing these standards, all private sector businesses, including 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.Source at: Sunday Observer