The objective is to strengthen Yoga as the flagbearer of India’s wellness tourism sector.
From a time when the western world viewed yoga as an esoteric concept from a vague exotic source, to placing its geographical index firmly within its country of origin – India – we’ve come a long way. Today, the seventh International Day of Yoga is being celebrated in 190 countries across the globe. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the universal theme for this year is ‘Yoga for Wellness’. The day started with Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the nation, and Prahlad Singh Patel, Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, performing yoga at Delhi’s Red Fort early this morning.
The Ministry of Culture organised events at 75 cultural heritage locations across the country, with officials conducting yoga camps for a limited number of people at various monuments and forts. Union ministers as well as those from across many states all got into the spirit too. While Yoga is great for everyone’s health, it’s actually good for the Indian economy’s health as well, as it could be the unique selling proposition that the country can offer a post-pandemic world that’s ready to travel in the quest for better mental and physical wellbeing.
The Ministry of Tourism (MoT) has been working hard to boost Yoga as a tourist draw since 2015. In earlier years, as part of the run-up to the day, the MoT hosted journalists, influencers, and tour operators from different parts of the world with wellness-focussed itineraries. Since last year, it’s been a very pronounced digital footprint. Due to the prevailing situation when actual travel is not advisable, the MoT and its field offices in India and overseas initiated various online programmes based on the theme ‘Be with Yoga, be at home’.
The Ministry of Ayush, which works towards the development and propagation of alternative Indian systems of healthcare, along with the MoT, has adopted a very dynamic digital campaign to create awareness for the ancient system of physical and mental well-being that is Yoga. Over the last few weeks, the ministries have collaborated with the country’s leading institutes to conduct webinars, live sessions, and interactive contests to engage a younger and wider demographic. While Incredible India boasts a whopping 450k followers on Instagram, the AYUSH account too has a sizeable following of 84.5k, as does the official account of the Ministry of Tourism, at 38.3k.
AYUSH has two photo competitions – ‘Be a CYP Yogi’ for adults and a ‘Cute Yoga’ campaign for kids, which has invited Indians from across the country to send in photographs taken while performing their favourite yogasana. Their portal also encourages enthusiasts to share their images and videos, an initiative they’ve given the catchy title of ‘The Yoga Billboard’.
While this is all calculated to get everyone in India talking about the ancient system that is still so relevant today, their recently launched app called Namaste Yoga could be handy for future foreign tourists who are interested in the discipline as well, as it provides access to information on trainers, centres and events, apart from asanas and merchandise. Meanwhile, the WHO mYoga, created in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, offers learning modules and practice sessions in audio and video formats.
The government has just proposed a strategy to boost post-pandemic travel by promoting India as a medical and wellness tourism destination, streamlining the existing National Medical & Wellness Tourism Promotion Board, and liberalizing the visa policy. The draft reads, “Post Covid-19, demand for wellness travel will increase and it provides a great opportunity to India with its varied offerings.”
The proposal cites figures shared by the not-for-profit Global Wellness Institute, which estimates the global wellness tourism market to have been worth USD 639 Billion in 2017, while they say that domestic wellness travel contributed 82 per cent of total trips and 65 per cent of expenditure. With the MoT’s roadmap to promote domestic as well as inbound tourism through wellness thus evolving, Yoga is bound to eventually be even bigger business than it is today.