Linser Hospitality GMBH Managing Director Dr. Franz Linser and Export Development Board Director General Jeevani Siriwardena
Pic by Kushan Pathiraja
By Nishel Fernando
The Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) kicks off the groundwork to develop an international wellness tourism strategy and a brand development initiative within a year, 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).
In the first phase, 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
The lead consultant and Linser Hospitality GMBH Managing Director Dr. Franz Linser, who is on a five-day visit to Sri Lanka, yesterday conducted a stakeholder discussion with key industry players at the EDB premises.
Speaking at the occasion, EDB Director General Jeevani Siriwardena revealed that the rapid assessment would be conducted via three components: demand survey, supply survey and competitive analysis.
The assessment, which is scheduled to be completed in December, will provide an overview and analysis of the country’s wellness tourism capacity and will define its existing unique selling proposition with insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the existing wellness tourism infrastructure and overall communication.
Based on the study, Dr. Linser noted that Sri Lanka would be able to develop a short-, medium- and long-term strategy to maintain and to secure new markets to position the country as an attractive destination for wellness tourists.
Siriwardena noted that the European Union (EU) in principal agreed to assist Sri Lanka with 80 percent of the required funding for phase two of the international brand development exercise next year, followed the conclusion of the rapid assessment study.
The second phase of the initiative is consisted of product development, brand evaluation and development and a developing marketing strategy for Sri Lanka’s wellness industry.
The EDB stated that the second phase would focus on looking at the long-term tangible benefits such as quality jobs in the tourism sector as a result of approaching the new sophisticated markets through a fresh product range as well as an increase in high-value wellness tourists from envisaged markets leading to a overall greater revenue generation for the sector.
The EDB plans to procure services of an international consulting firm to carry out the brand strategy development for the wellness tourism sector as similar to the ICT/BPM sector, next year.
Dr. Linser opined that the customisation of wellness tourism products, catering to the needs of the modern complicated lifestyles while targeting new markets, would be crucial for Sri Lanka to become a leading player in the global wellness tourism industry.
He noted that Sri Lanka has a distinct advantage compared considering its omnipresent healing environment across the country, combined with its deep-rooted Ayurveda system and
other alternative medicines.
Sri Lanka’s wellness tourism industry is at an early stage of development with the growth of the sector driven randomly by private establishments concentrating on hotel spas, Ayurveda resorts and spas, beauty clinics and yoga retreats.
Sri Lanka currently lacks clear strategy and supporting policy framework to develop the wellness tourism industry.
In indentifying constraints to growth of wellness tourism industry, it was proposed in the NES to develop a wellness tourism strategy while setting up a quality assurance system for the wellness and traditional medicine sectors is also mooted.
Further, it was proposed to amend the regulations on Ayurveda to include a new compulsory regulatory and licensing system for spas.
According to the Global Wellness Institute, in recent years, Sri Lanka has experienced a number of hotel/resort spas and traditional Ayurvedic resorts transforming themselves into destination spas and wellness retreats that provide a holistic package of services,
experiences or journeys.
The Gulf/MENA states, former Soviet Union countries, Eastern Europe, the Far East and Australia have been identified as potential new markets for traditional medicine, apart from the Western European and Northern American countries.
In line with the objectives of branding and promotion and the strategic Action Plan, the EDB is spearheading an International Brand Development Initiative to develop a strong national brand for wellness tourism in Sri Lanka.