Sri Lankan government considers Wellness Tourism Sector Strategy

Inbound health and medical tourism is at early stages in Sri Lanka, but the Government has identified wellness tourism as a key sector for investors.

The Wellness Tourism Sector Strategy of the National Export Strategy of Sri Lanka (2018-2022) was designed and formulated with the participation and in consultation with over 750 national, regional and sector specific public and private stakeholders in Sri Lanka.

The National Export Strategy is part of Sri Lanka’s overall trade policy framework and its implementation is part of the Government’s overall trade agenda. The wellness strategy is now with the Cabinet of Ministers for approval.

The draft was circulated among all stakeholders, including ministries, industry associations and chambers of commerce, for their review, feedback and validation. These views were incorporated in the final draft document. To create increased awareness and participation, the final draft was made public by the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade.

The goal is to develop the sector in a sustainable way, concentrating on traditional medicine, but also embracing other wellness tourism. The key is to offer high value alternative and complementary health and healing treatment catering to new markets.

Potential new markets for traditional medicine include Gulf/MENA states, Russian federation countries, Eastern Europe, the Far East and Australia. Possible new markets for Western medicine include Pakistan, Indonesia, Central Asian countries and Western Europe.

The wellness tourism sector in Sri Lanka is at an early stage and has been randomly developed by private companies with a concentration on Ayurvedic resorts and spas, hotel spas, resort spas, beauty clinics and yoga retreats.

The sector has yet to establish a clear strategy, and currently has no supporting figures, policies, regulation, institutions, promotion, or marketing support programmes. The same is true for medical tourism, although the country has several existing strengths that could help to develop this area. This includes an established network of hospitals with modern facilities, a large pool of English-speaking medical professionals and a strong tourism base from India, China, Germany, France and the UK.

The strategic objectives identified in the Wellness Tourism Sector Strategy include:

  • Develop co-ordination in the sector for both traditional and Western offerings
  • Set up a quality assurance system for wellness and traditional medicine sectors, including licensing and regulation with a national certification system
  • Collect and build statistics and offer information to potential customers

The idea is to encourage global hotel and wellness chains to build new Ayurvedic wellness resorts and hotels, licensed by local authorities.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority will be the organisation responsible for the registration of wellness businesses and traditional health offerings.

Regulations on Ayurveda will be amended to include a new compulsory regulatory and licensing system for spas.
To avoid over commercialisation and market saturation, investment needs to be controlled and guided. International hotels and spas will be encouraged to invest within strict guidelines. There will be new national standards on construction permits for existing investors in traditional medicine and health tourism.
National promotion campaigns can only begin after the framework is agreed and many more steps need to be taken to ensure Sri Lankan wellness tourism is ready to credibly market.