The Holistic Approach Of Ayurveda Based Wellness Tourism In Kerala RAMESH U *Assistant Professor, College of Engineering, Munnar, Kerala Tel: 04865 230606,232989 (Off), Mob: 094472 46162, Fax: 04865 232106 E Mail : [email protected] com ABSTRACT Wellness, in general, is used to mean a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit that results in an overall feeling of well-being. It is a multidimensional state of being, describing the existence of positive health in an individual as exemplified by quality of life.
Health/Wellness tourism refers to trips that are taken by tourists with the principle purpose being to improve their health and/or wellbeing. The wide use of alternative medicines makes India a particularly intriguing destination, and can bill itself as a holistic health solution. Kerala has been well known for hundreds of years for its practice of Ayurveda-a system of medicine that believes not simply treating the ailment but attending to the whole person.
Kerala’s equable climate, natural abundance of forests (with a wealth of herbs and medicinal plants) and the cool monsoon season (June – November) are best suited for curative and restorative packages. Before or after their treatment—or both—medical travelers can enjoy Kerala’s many popular tourist destinations. Whether they enjoy heritage tourism, or viewing wildlife, a beach vacation, or back water experiences, Kerala has a great deal to offer. The concept of health holiday, now better known as Wellness holiday, is based on the principles of Ayurveda, meditation, yoga, physical exercises and a balanced diet.
It is like rejuvenation and clean up process on all levels – physical, mental and emotional. Ayurveda deals elaborately with measures for healthful living during the entire span of life and its various phases. Besides, dealing with principles for maintenance of health, it has also developed a wide range of therapeutic measures to combat illness. The main objective of this paper is to analyze the reason as to why Kerala is being chosen as a preferred destination for Wellness Tourism and to explore the current opportunities and facilities offered to the Wellness seekers.
Key Words: Well being, Health holiday, Ayurveda, Rejuvenation. INTRODUCTION More than 50 years ago, the World Health Organization defined health as more than freedom from illness, disease, and debilitating conditions (WHO, 1947). The suggestion by World Health Organization that health had a positive component led to the use of the term wellness—now widely used to describe the state of being representing that positive component (Corbin, Pangrazi, & Franks, 2000).
Halbert Dunn developed the philosophy of wellness tourism to illustrate about a special state of health comprising an overall sense of wellbeing which sees man as consisting of body, spirit, mind and being dependent on his environment (Dunn, H. L, 1965). It is a concept that is attractive to visitors who love combining wellbeing and lifestyle healthcare services with the strong desire to travel overseas. The global advancement in medical research and technologies, increased facililities of transportation and demand of immediate quality healthcare have provided the patients worldwide to travel abroad for treatments.
The Indian healthcare industry has realized the potential of this niche market and has begun to tailor their services for international visitors (Ilyas, 2008). Government and private sector studies in India estimate that medical tourism could bring between $1 billion and $2 billion US into the country by 2012. The reports estimate that medical tourism to India is growing by 30 per cent a year. In order to qualify as a contemporary wellness tourism experience, we would contend that some deliberate contribution has to be made to psychological, spiritual or emotional well-being in addition to physical.
This takes wellness tourism from the realm of being merely a passive form of tourism with a focus on escapism to one where tourists are purposefully driven by the desire to actively seek enhanced wellness. Arguably, however, there had been an unprecedented intensification in the pursuit of wellness in the history of Tourism in the recent years (Smith& Kelly, 2006). The present trend, however, is for western tourists to seek solace in Eastern philosophies and therapies (e. g. , Chinese medicine, Buddhist meditation, Indian Ayurveda, Thai massage).
With more people in the west realizing the effectiveness of traditional and natural medicines in treating chronic diseases over modern medicines using chemical drugs, the scopes provided by Kerala is getting an upper hand in the Modern world. The Ayurvedic system of medicine has become very popular among tourists in the recent times. Ayurveda has its own comprehensive way of understanding the body, of what causes diseases, how to prevent them, how to relieve and cure them, methods of preparing therapeutic medicines using herbs and oils, rejuvenation and methods of surgery.
Kerala is the only place where Ayurveda is practiced in its true and authentic form. Wellness related tourism services provided by Kerala are now the most debated topic among the tourists and health care tourism providers’ world wide. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the holistic approach offered to the wellness seekers visiting Kerala through the traditional therapies and the factors that sustain this unique tourism product. DISCUSSION Health is god given and a natural phenomenon.
It is a law of the nature to protect the human beings from diseases. The fast paced lifestyle and stressful job coupled with lack of exercise and excessive eating habits have made the modern executive human to a variety of ailments. Even though the technological advancement of modern medicine is tremendous, its capacity for controlling and preventing diseases has gone down considerably. People are taking a lot more of drugs than they used to, and drug costs are inflating at a higher rate than any other component of health care (Angel, 2004).
There have been some attempts to classify specific measures of Wellness, such factors as personal energy, ability to enjoy leisure, better self-image and self-confidence, to name but a few(Cooper, 1982). Medical tourism can be broadly defined as provision of ‘cost effective’ private medical care in collaboration with the tourism industry for patients needing surgical and other forms of specialized treatment. Tourism in its initial stages was directly aimed at increasing health and well being of people.
In the present decade, the attempt to achieve better health while on a holiday through relaxation, exercise or visits to spas has been taken into a new level, with the emergence of a distinct niche in the tourism industry, “Wellness Tourism”, where tourism is deliberately linked to direct health interventions and the outcomes are expected to be substantial. The growing world wide focus on health and well being has led to an enormous increase in the wellness facilities in India. The country’s National Health Policy declares that treatment of foreign patients is legally an “export” nd deemed “eligible for all fiscal incentives extended to export earnings. ” The increasing attractiveness and economic significance of health and Wellness tourism is further apparent in the growth of both domestic and international visitors since the beginning of this decade. India is the most touted healthcare destination for countries like South-East Asia, Middle East, Africa, Mauritius, Tanzania, Bangladesh and Yemen with 12 per cent patient inflow from developing countries.
An estimated 150,000 medical tourists visited India during 2007, representing a 20% jump over the previous year and reports reveal that the earnings from Ayurveda Tourism alone amounted to Rs 60 billion. Table 1 indicates the foreign tourist arrivals and the foreign exchange earnings from 1996 to 2006. India has a huge diversity of holiday options ranging from the beaches of Goa, the mighty Himalayas, thousands of years of culture, diverse wildlife and of course the Ayurveda based wellness facilities offered by Kerala.
The added attractions to patients who wish to avail treatment in India is medical visa, it will now be easier to travel to India as the visa could be extended without any problem. Apart from the competitive pricing and specialized Medicare facililities, the Ayurveda based traditional treatments offered by Kerala has now emerged as the USP for India to develop as the most sought after healthcare destination in the World. Ayurveda based Wellness facilities Offered by Kerala Kerala – The mesmerizing land located in the south of India enjoys geographical features that are unique and rich.
Kerala is one of the few blessed lands in the world that is networked by forty four rivers. These rivers are also known as the “backwaters of Kerala” and it stretches up to almost 1900 kilometers. Kerala has some of the amazing, most charming beaches of the world. The colourful beaches always remain bathed in the golden rays of the sun and the tourists who spent their time here gets captivated by the ever glowing beauty of this picturesque land. It has a 600 km long shoreline dotted with coconut groves, natural harbors, lagoons and sheltered coves.
Kerala has some of the finest hill stations in India with the entire Western Ghats studded with evergreens, rolling grasslands, sholas and stretches of rejuvenating fragrance of tea and coffee plantations. Table 2 indicates the arrival rate of foreign tourists to India and the state wise break up highlighting the position of Kerala during the years 2005 and 2006. This state is also the only place in India which practices Ayurveda in its purest form. Ayurveda is the traditional Indian system of medicine that has brought true health, happiness and wellbeing to millions of individuals throughout the ages.
This ancient art of healing has been in practice for over 5000years, and was also the mainstream medicine in the ancient times. Derived from its ancient Sanskrit roots – “ayus” (life) and “ved” (knowledge) – and offering a rich, comprehensive outlook to a healthy life, it is the only medical science in this universe which is useful even when one is not ill. Ayurveda is a complete science of health that is being applicable in all stages of life starting from birth, neonates, infants, childhood, youth, old age and even life before and after death.
For many people, the image of Ayurveda is limited to the use of herbal or home/kitchen remedies and a traditional way of treatment. But in reality, Ayurveda is a much serious medical science, which strongly emphasizes on the diagnosis, examination, analysis of the disease, diet, medicinal properties, dose, frequency of the medicine and the medium with which it should be consumed (Kulkarni, 2008). These factors are highly crucial in achieving a complete cure and restore the balance and harmony of an individual, resulting in self-healing, good health and longevity.
The Medicare in Ayurveda has broadly two parts: one is preservation of health and prevention of diseases and the second, diseases and their treatment. In Ayurvedic terminology, the first is “Swasthavritha” and the later is “Athuravritha”. Ayurveda follows a totally different way of treating diseases known as “Panchakarma”, which means literally “Five Therapies” which are the subtly harmonizing purification procedures that dissolve metabolic waste products and toxins generated from the environmental ill effects, in a gentle and effective way from the tissues and eliminate them from the body.
The five therapies are namely:- Vamana- emetic and administration of drugs to produce vomiting, Virechana- administration of drugs for purgation, Nasyam- administration of drugs through nasal cavities, Anuvasana- rectal administration of medicated oil preparation and Nirooha- rectal administration of herbal decoctions. This treatment is advisable to the diseased as well as the healthy. In healthy persons, it is performed as a measure for health preservation.
Ayurveda also has a comprehensive system of massages and body treatments that gives relief from a wide range of illnesses, from migraine and sinus to arthritis and paralysis; that detoxify and cleans the body through controlled emesis, purgation, making the individual sweat; and that makes the body receptive to further treatment. Apart from the above mentioned therapies, Ayurveda offers something special for the middle aged tourists – “Rasayana” Treatment.
The Rasayana method of treatment is considered to be a measure to check and prevent the process of natural degeneration and decay by maintaining the strength of tissues (Varier, 1986). Ayurveda also claims that surgery may always be the last option in case of the treatment of an ailment. Natural medicines like herbs and minerals can all be partaken as food and not medicine as such, since their composition is all natural. These therapies are more effective in Kerala due to the almost year around humid climate of the state.
Even though our country is facing stiff competitions from other Wellness facilitation destinations in Asia – Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines, the traditional and natural medical practices offered by Kerala Ayurveda is helping in attracting medical tourists from US, Europe and other Middle Eastern countries, increasingly, to seek solace as to their belief and reality, as Ayurveda extends excellent treatments for ailments like Osteo-Arthritis, Rheumatic Arthritis, Tennis Elbow and Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, Spondylosis, Intervertibular disc prolapse, Frozen Shoulder, Insomnia, Migraine, Skin Diseases and of course Weight management.
Table 3 indicates the variety of Ayurvedic treatments offered for different ailments. Kerala is now considered as one of the best places for alternative healthcare treatments and because of this popularity, the number of Ayurvedic centers opening up across the state is also substantially increasing. With a view to facilitate the wellness tourism industry to achieve the targets and to give a greater momentum for this growth, the Ministry of Tourism, Government of Kerala, in association with the Department of Indian Systems of Medicine has identified an urgent need to evaluate the safety and service standards of the prevailing and newly establishing Ayurveda centers and classify them accordingly.
Standards have been set in terms of Personnel – Qualified physicians and masseurs having sufficient degree and training from recognized Ayurveda institutions, Quality of medicines and Health programmes – Prior approval by the advisory committee for the levels of treatments, clear exhibition of the treatment programmes offered and usage of medicines manufactured by approved firms with proper labeling, Equipments – Standards are fixed for the size and make of massage tables, facilities for medicated hot water , sterilization, electric/ gas stove and the hygiene , Facilities – in terms of number of treatment rooms with prescribed size , proper ventilation and attached bathrooms, quality and finishing of floors and walls, consultation room with proper equipments, separate rest rooms, locality , ambience and the cleanliness of surroundings. Ayurvedic centers fulfilling all the mentioned essential conditions are awarded a certification named Olive Leaf.
Apart from the same, Government has also set some optional conditions in terms of the construction and architectural features of the building, adequate parking space, facilities for steam bath, separate hall for yoga and meditation, herbal garden attached to the center and the picturesque location. The Ayurveda centers also fulfilling these optional conditions will awarded Green Leaf. The district wise distribution of classified Ayurvedic health centers in Kerala is shown in Table 4. From the past two decades, the necessity for a holistic approach in the treatment of diseases had been an active topic for discussion among the scholars of modern medical sciences (Mohanlal, 2008).
As a system of medicine that completely eliminates the disease from the body without causing any side effects, and which ultimately promotes the basic health, Ayurveda stands atop the alternative systems of treatments recognized by the World Health Organization. Many foreign countries have already started Kerala Ayurveda treatment centers and the export of Ayurvedic medicines to international market is increasing in a faster pace day by day. But, to the surprise, foreign tourists are often just as keen to visit the origin of the practice to avail treatments and body purification processes. The basic principles emerging from a holistic outlook, the peculiar and unique techniques of treatments, and the health promoting and non reactive herbal drugs used are the main elements which differentiate Ayurveda from the other prevailing medical systems. CONCLUSION
India is one of the countries that have deliberately set out to be a dominant medical tourism destination. A recent trend has shown that people from developed countries are seeking treatment from the health professionals of developing countries. The Indian medical tourism industry is growing at an annual rate of 30 percent and with international traveling becoming easier and affordable and with improvements in healthcare technology and infrastructure across the world, medical tourism is fast becoming a preferable way to mingle leisure with health and wellness. Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine and health science, is an integral part of Kerala’s culture.
In all branches of medicine and health care, Ayurveda has its own, peculiar contributions and tourists from all over the world are seeking healing in numerous Ayurveda Centers in Kerala. In the long run, Wellness tourism can become the niche for foreign revenue generation as there is an increasing trend in the number of visitors to Kerala as wellness seekers. Varsity of the Wellness phenomenon coupled with the mind blowing tourism potential offers a well set choice for international tourists to visit this land better known to the world as ‘Gods Own Country’.