Sri Lanka looks to promote health tourism

The Sri Lanka Export Development Board in association with the Sri Lanka Wellness Tourism Association has been exploring the potential of wellness tourism with local stakeholders. They believe that Sri Lanka has all the necessary attributes to become a leading global wellness destination. Although medical tourism is still nascent in Sri Lanka, it too has the potential to become a promising part of tourism in the country.

The level of promotion being undertaken to attract wellness tourists to Sri Lanka is currently quite limited when compared with Kerala and Thailand, although Sri Lanka has several wellness destinations.

Sri Lankan authorities believe that it is important to take a holistic approach in terms of the country’s promotion and marketing of this high value tourism segment.

There is currently a lack of awareness among travellers about what Sri Lanka has to offer as a wellness destination. There is a marketability of Sri Lanka’s resorts and spas to European and Asian health tourists, and the island’s indigenous Ayurveda industry is a huge asset in the sector.

Sri Lanka could perform well in wellness tourism, as the country has managed the COVID-19 crisis successfully in terms of recording low numbers of cases and deaths. Sri Lanka Tourism has also been in discussion with the European Union Office in Colombo regarding the most effective use of a €3.5 million (US$4m) government to government grant offered to help recover from the crisis.

This grant will be used to support and promote wellness tourism, including Ayurveda and Sri Lanka’s own indigenous traditional medicine, hela wedakama. Sri Lanka Tourism has agreed with the EU to use the money on product development, branding, marketing, and certification of wellness resorts, focusing on Ayurveda and hela wedakama. Product development will be led by the private sector.

Sri Lanka Tourism is working with the Ministry of Health to finalise regulations relating to Ayurveda and hela wedakama, and capacity building. After this a product development and promotional campaign will be launched. The European Development Board has in place a national strategy for wellness and Sri Lanka Tourism will coordinate with them. Sri Lanka Tourism has also set up a wellness group with the private sector for support and ideas that could be incorporated into the action plan.

Leading private healthcare provider, Hemas Hospitals is expecting the medical and wellness tourism industry to be a promising component of Sri Lanka’s healthcare portfolio, going forward as it could grow exponentially when packaged together with other wellness offerings of yoga, Ayurveda, and hela wedakama.

Although medical tourism is still nascent in Sri Lanka, it too has the potential to become a promising part of tourism in the country. Sri Lanka has emerged as the popular medical destination for many Seychellois patients. As the healthcare provider to patients from Seychelles, Hemas Hospitals has taken all necessary steps to follow the procedures, protocols and precautionary measures laid by the Ministry of Health in providing treatment to them.

As the country re-opens, visitors will be required to show a negative PCR test prior to boarding the flight to Sri Lanka, which needs to have been taken within 72 hours of boarding. Upon arrival in Sri Lanka another PCR test will be done. A third test will be required four to five days after arrival, by a mobile unit in coordination with the accommodation provider. A fourth test will be required if staying for more than 10 days. In the event of a positive PCR test, a 14-21 day quarantine in a designated hotel or hospital will take place depending on the details of the case.

All visitors to Sri Lanka will be required to provide proof of travel medical insurance. A ‘Safe & Secure’ certification is offered for registered five/four star category hotels and boutique villas/hotels. The main tourist season typically begins around November.