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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 53  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 145-148

The coronavirus pandemic impact on India's Yoga tourism business


1 Division of Yoga and Humanities, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
2 Distinguished Research Professor at the College of Pharmacy and Health Care, Tajen University, Yanpu, Pingtung, Taiwan

Date of Submission21-Oct-2021
Date of Decision15-Nov-2021
Date of Acceptance16-Nov-2021
Date of Web Publication22-Dec-2021

Correspondence Address:
Govindasamy Agoramoorthy
College of Pharmacy and Health Care, Tajen University, Yanpu, Pingtung 907
Taiwan
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ym.ym_116_21

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  Abstract 


Yoga tourism is an emerging market in India, with a great economic potential to boost revenue in the wellness travel and hospitality industries. Millions of tourists from foreign countries visit India each year to explore the history, philosophy, practice, and experiences of Yoga as the art originated there. However, little is known in the scientific literature on the Yoga-linked tourism and hospitality subject. Besides, how the enduring COVID-19 pandemic impacts the emerging Yoga tourism and hospitality sector in India is not fully understood. This article highlights the less-known aspects of India's Yoga tourism and hospitality and how the continuing COVID-19 pandemic impacts the business.

Keywords: COVID-19, economy, hospitality, impact, India, Yoga tourism


How to cite this article:
Dayananda Swamy H R, Agoramoorthy G. The coronavirus pandemic impact on India's Yoga tourism business. Yoga Mimamsa 2021;53:145-8

How to cite this URL:
Dayananda Swamy H R, Agoramoorthy G. The coronavirus pandemic impact on India's Yoga tourism business. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Dec 1];53:145-8. Available from: https://www.ym-kdham.in/text.asp?2021/53/2/145/333352




  Introduction Top


The economic potential of Yoga tourism has gained attention lately in the wellness, travel and hospitality industries (Bowers & Cheer, 2017). Research studies focused on the impact of Yoga have shown immense therapeutic values to treat various diseases, namely diabetes, hypertension, obesity, depression, immune disorder, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary disease (Taneja, 2014; Cramer, Lauche, Haller, Dobos, & Michalsen, 2015; Gautam, Kumar, Kumar, Rana, & Dada, 2021). Besides, Yoga has great potential to achieve some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals since it cultivates universal peace and happiness (Pandya, 2018). Yoga encourages people to promote honesty and vitality while staying away from greed and hurting others, including all life forms. The Yoga-based self-disciplines and compliances collectively have the potential to enhance societal morality to cope with the emerging challenges posed by global warming while mitigating the climate-induced threats through the application of appropriate sustainable development goals mandated by the United Nations (Robert, Parris, & Leiserowitz, 2005).

People in general are attracted toward Yoga since the routine training enhances the overall physical and mental health of practitioners (Ross, Friedmann, Bevans, & Thomas, 2013). In the United States, the number of Yoga practitioners has increased from 18 million in 2008 to 55 million by 2020, and the revenue generated likewise increased from USD 9 billion in 2015 to USD 12 billion in 2020 (Statista, 2020). Nevertheless, little is known in the scientific literature on the importance of Yoga tourism in the increasingly globalized world (Dillette & Douglas, 2019; Oznalbant & Alvarez, 2019).

A search for the popular keyword “tourism” in the Web of Science database from 1955 to 2021 has yielded 46,442 papers. However, when the phrase “Yoga tourism” was searched, it showed only 14 papers published between 2015 and 2021 with an average of only two papers per year that depicts the embryonic nature of the subject matter. Surprisingly, the search for “Yoga tourism and COVID-19” resulted in no papers at all. Scientific research is fundamental to explore how customers select and respond to various features of their chosen travel and hospitality destinations (Vinyals-Mirabent, 2019). This article presents the less-known aspects of the coronavirus pandemic impact on India's Yoga tourism and hospitality endeavors.

When the pandemic emerged in 2020, the global tourism industry suffered the worst. Reports estimated that the loss will reach over 4 trillion USD (UNCTAD, 2021). India was one among the popular tourist destinations in Asia before the pandemic (Hsu & Agoramoorthy, 2021). In 2019, India received 17.9 million foreign tourists and many came to experience Yoga since the ancient practice originated there millennia ago (Maddox, 2015). However, tourists have avoided traveling to India when the government imposed a strict lockdown to control the pandemic starting in April 2020. Consequently, only less than three million overseas tourists visited India in 2020 with a sweeping 75% reduction compared to 2019 that resulted in serious economic consequences for the travel- and hospitality-related businesses (ET, 2021).


  India'S Tourism Background Top


Yoga came to global attention when Swami Vivekananda delivered an iconic spiritual speech at the first World's Parliament of Religions that took place in Chicago, USA, during September 11–27, 1893 (Singleton & Goldberg, 2013). Subsequently, Swami Vivekananda demonstrated the practice of Yoga to his followers in the USA that primarily consisted of philosophy, psychology, and self-improvement. Yoga became more popular in Western countries when the renowned rock band “Beatles” visited India in 1968 to immerse in transcendental meditation training at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh (Reck, 1985). Initially, Yoga was treated by the Western audience as part of the Hindu religious practice. However, it later evolved as an economic element in the travel, hospitality, and healthcare sectors (Agoramoorthy, 2019). Ultimately, it got recognition in the United Nations in 2014 when India proposed the creation of a day to recognize Yoga, and thus, the “International Day of Yoga” came into effect on June 21, 2015 (Ki-Moon, 2015).

India harbors the second largest tourism market in Asia. It also ranks 11th among the 20 fastest-growing tourism destinations globally. In 2019, the tourism sector in India alone generated USD 268 billion, which is further projected to reach up to USD 500 billion by 2029 (Jaipuria, Parida, & Ray, 2021). About 87.5 million jobs were credited to the tourism sector during 2018–2019. To further boost the revenue, the Indian government has created a separate department to promote Yoga-allied activities. One of India's leading Yoga promoters, Shri Baba Ramdev organized numerous camps for thousands of people before the pandemic (Ramdev, 2021). He also organized special Yoga activities for the paramilitary border security force personnel (Telles et al., 2019). The Yoga popularity prompted him to diversify numerous herbal-based health products that led to the creation of a conglomerate called Patanjali with a turnover of over USD 4 billion (FN, 2021).


  The Pandemic Impact on Yoga Tourism Top


India's Yoga tourism sector alone generates about USD 6.5 billion yearly (Kathuria, 2020). However, over 21.5 million jobs linked to the sector were lost due to travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic to contain the spread of COVID-19 infection (Hindu, 2021). Although the government announced financial support through rapid loan guarantees, it will be negligible compared to the millions who lost livelihoods due to the pandemic off-putting the often profitable Yoga travel and hospitality commerce. The hotspots where Yoga-based tourism and hospitality flourished before the coronavirus pandemic include Mysore, Bangalore, Goa, Trivandrum, Pune, and Rishikesh. The spiritual town of Rishikesh (area 11.5 km2) alone harbors over 200 Yoga resorts. They have attracted thousands of foreign tourists plus over 30 million domestic tourists before the pandemic as the town serves as the de facto Yoga capital set on the foothills of the Himalayas at the convergence of two revered rivers, the Ganges and Chandrabhaga in Uttarakhand state. The site has a long divine history where ancient sages meditated in solitude to self-realize the ultimate knowledge. The Uttarakhand state's Yoga tourism investment is projected to reach USD 85 billion by 2028 with over 50% growth forecast reliant on foreign tourists (McCartney, 2021). However, the Yoga tourism business came to a standstill ever since the pandemic lockdown started in April 2020 (Anand, 2021). As of late October 2021, India has recorded over 34 million cases of COVID-19 infections with 453,000 deaths, and the ban on international tourists is expected to be lifted soon.

When tourists came to a standstill, the Yoga promoters have switched to digital mode to popularize fitness apps and streaming platforms. Thousands of novel health apps were launched and India recorded an increase of 156% in the apps alone with over 60 million users in 2020 (Dhawan, 2021). When the World Health Organization endorsed Yoga for health enrichment in March 2020, Google recorded an outburst in searches for Yoga in India that went up by 3650% (Mathew, 2020). Besides, the accessories market reached over USD 100 million, while the Yoga business witnessed an increase of 241% among Fitbit users in 2020. Further, meditation emerged as an activity with an astounding increase of 2381% (Chaudhary, 2020). However, digital growth alone could not compensate for the economic loss suffered by those who depend on Yoga tourism.

Before the pandemic, India was one among the top five countries in the world to attract tourists supported by maximum Yoga retreats (1,178), followed by Indonesia (542), Spain (459), Thailand (300), USA (252), and Portugal (250). However, in 2021, the top 10 Yoga travel destination target forecast has ranked France at the top, followed by Portugal, Spain, Germany, Greece, UK, Italy, USA, Indonesia, and last of all India (McCartney 2021), which showed a drastic decline in business. The above scenarios show the economic fears lingering around Yoga tourism. We would like to suggest the government implement counter strategies that include clear understanding of the demands in tourism, creating new business models to promote Yoga tourism and hospitality, activating tech-based solutions to catalyze the market, and strengthening public–private partnership boosted by special investments to rejuvenate the business before it is too late.


  Possible Way Out Top


Drastic decline in Yoga tourism in India during COVID pandemic would eventually recede as the community health situation becomes normal in due course. However, there are certain issues surrounding the Yoga tourism sector that lurk incessantly. The current need therefore is to address the already existing challenges and the recent ones that emerged during the pandemic period. Tourists in general visit India to immerse in Yoga tourism trusting the authenticity of the country where the practice originated long ago. However, tourists often get disappointed when they receive deplorable experiences due to their encounter with unauthenticated teachers and schools. Mushrooming Yoga centers to lure customers for profit has emerged in different places that made it challenging to identify reputable Yoga centers. In the future, this problem is expected to grow more seriously. The state and central government agencies have great responsibility in protecting the image of India and guarantee visitors (both local and overseas) with credible practice of Yoga. To tackle such a problem of huge magnitude, institutional intervention is urgently needed.

The government should initiate methods to scrutinize the authenticity of Yoga centers, teachers, and facilities. Keeping the main mantra as transparency and integrity, methods should be developed to publicly release the key indicators of quality control. This can include factors such as the availability of adequate infrastructure, qualification and experience of Yoga trainers, structure of the Yoga package, fees, feedback of previous participants, and quality of hospitality measures promoted by the Yoga schools. Although many institutions do publish such common details in their web pages, a central repository maintained and regulated by the government can go a long way in building trust. The quality council of India (2021) currently has a number of schemes to accredit small healthcare facilities such as Pancha karma clinic and AYUSH hospitals. Similarly, the Yoga Certification Board of the Ministry of AYUSH offers services to accredit both Yoga institutions and Yoga professionals (AYUSH, 2021). Such schemes must be made more popular with active practice across the country. An affiliation program with the government regulatory body can be rolled out, where other services apart from accreditation, such as merchandising, tourist visits, organization of large conglomerates, and events, can be offered. Health, education, and spiritual search are the major reasons that attract Yoga tourists to India, so any measures that can demonstrate authenticity and transparency can build long-term trust and will foster a sustainable growth for Yoga tourism.


  Recommendations for Policy Implementation Top


Based on the above discussion, we propose the following recommendations to the respective government agencies to promote Yoga tourism in India:

  1. Build supportive infrastructure to make the local places a great tourist attraction
  2. Facilitate travel for the purpose of Yoga tourism
  3. Promote entrepreneurship by providing financial support to emerging Yoga-based startups
  4. Introduce Yoga tourism-specific short-term diploma and degree courses at the institutions of higher learning
  5. Develop a government initiated online public information system for publishing key information about various Yoga institutes and their available facilities
  6. Promote awareness among emerging Yoga institutes to adopt accreditation on a regular basis
  7. Create special events sponsored by government during festivals and long holidays to enhance the volume of tourists
  8. Promote development and manufacturing of Yoga apparels and products
  9. Facilitate connectivity with other health institutions, to offer health-based Yoga tourism programs
  10. Initiate special research programs in universities to further develop strategies to promote Yoga tourism in India.



  Conclusion Top


The COVID pandemic has globally hit the overall tourism sector, including Yoga tourism. Yoga being the cultural and spiritual icon of India, the government must initiate and promote steps to ameliorate the current condition of Yoga tourism in the country. This timely action can help seize the emerging opportunities in the post-COVID period and support country's postpandemic economic growth.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.[32]



 
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