Heal and Revive: Emerging Trends in Wellness Tourism in Kerala

Heal and Revive: Emerging Trends in Wellness Tourism in Kerala

Bipithalal Balakrishnan Nair (University of Bedfordshire, UK)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9787-2.ch012
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During the past decade, health and wellness tourism has become one of the top categories of tourism across the globe. On the other hand, academic deliberations are forged about the classifications and elucidations to differentiate the key terms concomitant with the wellness tourism sector. Arguably, due to the high market competition, the majority of the wellness/wellbeing/health tourism products are closely related and used interchangeably. Therefore, this study attempts to discourse the contemporary trends and developments in Kerala. As the forerunner for Ayurveda tourism and as one of the popular wellness tourist destinations, Kerala persists in the top list. Though, compared to other destinations, there are minimal tourism-oriented researcher studies were conducted. To attend this gap, this chapter explores the wellness sector of Kerala in terms of recent trends and developments. Interestingly, the tourism sector of Kerala observed to be dynamic and innovative by combining various tourism attributes offer a unique experience to the visitors.
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Tourism is perceived as a course of self-generation as well as recreation, edification or leniency. Smith and Puczkó (2009, p.9) suggest the process of tourism as “enhanced by regular breaks from routine, periods of rest and relaxation, fantasy and escapism, even the mere pleasure of planning and anticipating a trip”. To them, the benefits of tourism appears to be more linked to mental health and physical relaxations. Historically, many regions, countries and communities followed their own ethnic wellness treatments; for instance, Indian, Chinese, Egyptian, Persian and Japanese style treatments existed and many are still widely practised through tourism.

Scholars who have worked on the topic of wellness tourism seem to agree that there is not a universally approved definition for the term or often confusion is caused owing to the myriad of associated terms (Grénman and Räikkönen, 2015). Due to interdisciplinary (or transdisciplinary) conceptualisation, it has been demarcated in many ways. This plurality of definitions has often contributed to the richness and depth of the area with dialogues bridging the disciplinary boundaries from medical science to sociology. All of these conceptualisations differ in their scope and disciplinary characteristics. In tourism studies, health, well-being and medical tourism are well researched and the Nordic scholars have been epitomised at the leading edge of the research.

Following the views of Agner (2010), the term ‘well-being’ can be classified into three main categories: psychological or mental; satisfaction or fulfilment and purpose. Instead, wellness or well-being is complex to define since it is a personal experience based on the requirements of the individual in need. One of the prime reasons for the growing interest in this field can be hectic lifestyle, stress and changes in the sociological values as well as customs. Tourism has always been seen as a process of relaxation, indulgence or revitalisation. At present it is seen as an escape from daily stress and tension. More people prefer to find ways to revitalise themselves during their holidays, than just through leisure. This trend catalysed the boom in the wellness tourism sector. Instead of health or medicinal tourism, well-being aims to revive mind, body and soul to create a holistic ambience; the psychological and physical benefits of tourism. In this context, it is worth exploring the views of Hallab (2006, p.71) regarding well-being tourism, to demonstrate how “in the fields of travel and tourism, health has been approached from the angle of tourism experiences’ effects on an individual’s well-being”.

Reflecting the intensifying tourism discourse about wellness, Hartwell et al., (2018, p.56), mentioned that there has been “an evolution in thinking about health, wellness, well-being and quality of life in tourism from concerns about product, tourist motivations and attitudes towards tourism, towards [sic!] a more consolidated and deeper appreciation of the range of benefits provided by tourism, both for tourists and residents.” Aware of the wealth of studies on health and wellness tourism, Table 1 illustrates various viewpoints and descriptions. In tourism studies, the literature around wellness is witnessing a tremendous expansion, principally focusing on the areas of product development; customer satisfaction; marketing; management and practice; service opportunities; moreover, it has also been conceptualised in association with indigenous and cultural contexts, as noted by Foley (2010). It is perhaps a more industrially converged topic aim to deliver customer satisfaction as well as experience built upon the foundation of ‘alternative health’ tourism.

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