With the world facing an unprecedented global health crisis, the social and economic implications of which are set to be long-lasting, travel and tourism are among the most affected sectors and will face a real risk to near-term survival and significant disruption.
Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts attempts to paint a picture of how different sectors of the travel and tourism industries are likely to evolve in the short to medium term, through a series of webinars focusing on the “Future of Tourism”.
The second edition of the Cinnamon Future of Tourism series took place on 16 June, and featured an eminent panel of travel and tourism personalities, including Siddhalepa Group Managing Director (MD) Asoka Hettigoda, Global Wellness Institute’s Wellness Tourism Initiative Chair Droga and Co. Founder Katherine Droga, and GOCO Hospitality Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder Ingo Schweder. The webinar was moderated by Dileep Mudadeniya, who serves as Head of Brand Marketing for Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts and Vice President of John Keells Holdings. The webinar looked at “The Transforming Interface of Wellness Tourism”.
The panel discussed how in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the whole world has slowed down, taking a step back and focusing more on physical and emotional wellbeing. It is very likely that following the worst of the pandemic when travellers start moving again, that there will be a shift away from mass tourism, with a focus on wellness tourism, and experiences that enrich travellers and combine beauty, culture, and wellness.
Sri Lanka is in a very strong position to become a major player in the world of wellness tourism. Droga shared that particularly in light of Covid-19, travellers and society, in general, have begun to value their wellness, and look to enhance it. Wellness tourism as a sector was undergoing phenomenal growth pre-Covid-19, and research suggests that this growth will not be hindered by the pandemic and that the niche market of wellness tourism will in fact become broader.
Sri Lanka still has some way to go in developing before it can compete for a top spot in the world’s wellness tourism market. Hettigoda explained that through Ayurveda and our general way of life, Sri Lanka is in a position to offer something to wellness tourists. However, before we can do this, we need to be sure that standards will apply to materials used in treatments, particularly materials that are ingested. This sort of regulation would require the co-operation of multiple entities like the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) and the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services, to name a few. Without this sort of care and attention, Sri Lanka will never be able to properly position itself as a wellness hub.
Hettigoda also stressed the importance of training therapists, managers, and trainers properly for Sri Lanka to truly make a mark in the wellness tourism field.
Schweder spoke about how the wellness and hotel sectors are converging and on the importance of concepts like sustainable design, efficient energy consumption, and inclusion of nature in wellness properties. Schweder also explained that wellness properties need not be custom-built, but that repurposing properties creatively and effectively to enhance the wellness aspects of tourism would go a long way.
Speaking on strategies for promoting Sri Lanka as a wellness destination, the panel discussed how it would come down to great storytelling, and that Sri Lanka has an advantage being so close to India, which is one of the world’s biggest wellness destinations. The panel also stressed the importance of involvement and co-operation on a national level, form the various travel and related sectors, to make Sri Lanka shine as a wellness destination.
From an investment point of view, Droga shared that in the short term, local investors will be more connected with Sri Lanka as a wellness destination, because they understand how wellness is an important part of Sri Lankan life and how this can be leveraged to position Sri Lanka as a wellness hub. Local investors will also be more likely to invest with long-term returns in mind as opposed to global investors. However, global investors could see great potential in Sri Lanka as the market is not saturated.
On the whole, the panel ended positively, noting the great potential of Sri Lanka as a wellness destination, particularly post-pandemic, provided proactive action to position Sri Lanka as a wellness destination takes place and the concept becomes reality.