We need new imagery, standards for ayurveda tourism: Ram Wasan

Ram Nidhi Wasan Mekosa Ayurveda resort

The ayurveda hospitality industry must focus on those consumers who truly need ayurveda as an essential part of their lives. The attempt should be to position ayurveda as close to nature tourism, says Ramnidhiwasan, founder of Mekosha, in an interview. Excerpts:

Q: Ayurveda tourism is an important part of Kerala tourism. In the post Covid-19 world, how can we ensure that we don’t lose business? Kerala had built a good momentum in 2019.

A world post COVID-19 would have the consumers focus only on the essentials. Leisure travel, travel as a hobby, travel for adventure and exploring, while they will bounce back, will take a much longer time than essential travel.

Essential travel, in my mind, would include travel for compulsory work, for personal emergencies and for healthcare. Ayurveda tourism has the advantage of being closer to healthcare tourism than other kinds of travel.
In order to ensure Kerala continues to get business the following must happen:

  1. Kerala must stand together and proactively control COVID-19 cases – this in turn should be displayed in the media and Kerala should maintain its proactive stance as a state with a difference.
  2. Implementing highest levels of hygiene and COVID ready procedures as possible (e.g. using hospital grade disinfectants, updating check in procedures with thorough rapid tests & checks)
  3. Focusing on those consumers that truly need ayurveda as an essential part of their lives with a positive and nurturing attitude
  4. Positioning ayurveda as close to nature tourism.
  5. Realigning to more domestic tourism rather than international tourism.
  6. Focus on the tangible benefits for our consumers.

At the end of the day, the values of compassion, warmth and a sense of security will be sought out more than ever once the doors of travel reopen, and our industry must come together to focus on these three values.

Q: Massage, which is an integral part of ayurveda tourism, can be an issue going forward. Due to the corona virus epidemic, many tourists may be wary of physical contact even after the crisis ends. How can the industry tackle this problem?

. While massages are a big part of ayurveda tourism, it is not limited only to massages. There are hundreds of therapies and we at Mekosha use a blend of all therapies put together.

The same needs to get communicated. New imagery of ayurveda needs to be used unlike the typical ones used so far. It is true though that a lot of those therapies do have physical proximities. We would need to literally be setting new standards for the world to follow. These standards need to be very precise and tabled across the industry.

A few things that can be implemented to help alleviate our tourists’ concerns:

  1. Focus our marketing on the range of therapies & overall benefits of an ayurveda retreat over and above massages – it is a combination of the ambience, food, treatments, yoga & meditation that all comes together for ayurveda tourism
  2. Equip all therapists with gloves, and safety kits that allows them to do their job in the best protective manner. Combining the age-old therapies with modern hygiene shall be a must.
  3. Adopt a few in-house therapists that are in quarantine on site – this helps in ensuring highest safety protocols being followed. Frequent rapid tests of the staff need to be done.
  4. Enhanced hygiene certifications – generally, we are used to seeing bathrooms with hygiene certificates, and now post COVID-19 we should start implementing certified disinfected stickers in each room rather than only bathrooms. We may even need to have staff certified.

Overall, it is only by focusing on highest safety and hygiene standards, both as an industry and supported by the government, that one can tackle this.

Q: Ayurveda has the powers to improve immunity. How can we propagate this message globally?

The industry must work hand in hand with the government and AYUSH to further this message. AYUSH has already released immunity boosting advisories and are promoting it as a part of self-care. The industry should come together to include this in its messaging and communication too. More such immunity focused protocols can be followed at each property for all guests.

Q: What suggestions can you give to fellow ayurveda industry players? As a group how do you think the industry can weather this storm? Maybe a new SOP or a new protocol going forward?

A lot of suggestions have been iterated as a part of above questions too. Over and above these, there is definitely going to be a new world paradigm to consider. Each of us should include such events as a part of our business continuity and disaster planning. A review of all contracts to ensure the correct force majeure terms are in place. Check in procedures can include testing and safety kits. An analysis of the low touch economy’s impact on the customers’ journeys needs to be considered as relevant for each ayurveda player – some might be able to increase digitization of various touchpoints, and some might be able to implement social distancing measures at various locations.

Q: How do we ensure that we stay on top of other ayurveda promoting nations?

By focusing all our collective efforts as an industry and as a nation on taking safety measures extremely seriously – staying at home, following lockdown, wearing masks, washing our hands and disinfecting all public areas as often as possible. It is only by coming together for safety that we can reduce the spread of corona and the number of cases will speak for themselves at a global level. That should be our prime focus as well.
A comprehensive promotion with the involvement of all the stakeholders shall need to be done. Something unique that allows us to put the best foot forward in the source markets.
Having the ayurveda hotels come together and develop a joint marketing platform shall be the need of the hour.

Q: What new innovations can we bring into ayurveda tourism in the coming years?

Telemedicine consultations, enhanced digitization, lesser paper exchange, contactless payments and robot concierges.