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Ayurveda sector ailing under COVID-19 stress

Kerala’s Ayurveda and wellness tourism sectors, which contribute about half of the over ₹40,000-crore annual revenue from the tourism sector, are neck deep in a crisis owing to almost nil inflow of guests following the COVID-19 situation. There is a steep fall in enquiries for the impending Karkidaka season when demand generally peaks.

While popular stakeholders are hopeful that they can make good the slump through innovation and aggressive marketing in 2021, new resorts and clinics are in a catch-22 situation. “The crisis has hit the Ayurveda and wellness sectors like never before, although health professionals are laying emphasis on boosting immunity to overcome viral infections,” says Sajeev Kurup, president, Ayurveda Promotion Society.

Package sought

The two sectors had sailed past the Nipah outbreak and floods of 2018 and 2019. This time, COVID-19 has struck the markets that they rely on — especially Italy, Germany, France, and other European countries. All bookings till the end of April stand cancelled. It has to be seen whether there will be tourist inflow during the monsoon when different treatments are offered. Both Kerala Tourism and the Ayush Ministry must announce a package to bail out the affected stakeholders, many of whom launched their properties after securing big loans, Mr. Kurup says.

“Already, the Ayurveda and wellness sectors are feeling the heat owing to emerging competition from Sri Lanka. The sectors are critical from the forex point of view since guests stay put continuously for between 14 and 21 days, with each one spending between $100 and $400. Going by the trend, I feel that the sectors will remain badly affected till winter begins in Europe and the people begin to travel,” he says.

Hit by the standstill, the question mark remains on how employees are going to be paid, since the two sectors are highly labour-intensive.

“Thus, it is imperative that the State government temporarily suspend various minimum demand charges which stakeholders have to pay even if there is no patronage for their properties,” Mr. Kurup says.

Sources in Kerala Tourism say the key role played by Ayurveda and wellness will be re-emphasised in the agency’s road shows and other marketing initiatives so that Kerala does not lose ground to competitors.

“Banks and financial institutions must ideally announce a moratorium on loans availed by tourism stakeholders, since it provides employment to a huge number of people in Kerala,” they add.

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