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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Wellness vacations catch on in India

Sneha Mahale, Hindustan Times   March 04, 2014
First Published: 18:39 IST(4/3/2014) | Last Updated: 20:43 IST(5/3/2014)

On March 1, the International Yoga Week commenced at a boutique hotel in Rishikesh. Going on for seven days, the programme includes nearly 70 hours of yoga with interactive sessions with experts from the field. It isn’t the first initiative that seeks to relax the mind and rejuvenate spirits. As stress levels rise, a number of travellers are looking for holidays that provide a more holistic well-being.

“Yoga and vipassana are part of our culture, but Indians are beginning to include them in their holidays. We also have travellers looking for Ayurveda options,” says Yusuf Poonawala, VP-Bharat Deko, Cox & Kings, adding that wellness cuisine is catching on too. “Patrons are served healthier and lighter preparations created from natural ingredients.”

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According to the SRI International Study released at the 2013 Global Wellness Tourism Congress, this industry is estimated to grow nearly 50%  faster than global tourism by 2017. It also forecasts that India is going to be the global leader in this field over the next five years, clocking over 20 per cent gains annually.  The market for such breaks is clearly a large one, with travel operators claiming that they receive requests from people in the age group of 30-70.

Read: Yoga can benefit breast cancer patients by regulating stress hormones

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While cities like Pune and Panaji are gaining popularity for wellness tourism, destinations such as Bekal, Neeleshwar and Kasargod (all in Kerala) as well as spots in the Nilgiri biosphere are also seeing a growing interest. “We have witnessed a spike in interest not just from the youth and senior citizens but also from our high-profile luxury travellers,” says Rajeev Kale, COO – MICE, domestic, sports holidays and cruises, Thomas Cook (India).

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/3/cafe-pic02.jpgMost see these short-duration getaways as detox vacations. “To cater to this demand, holistic wellness centres have mushroomed across India. We are seeing a trend of people combining their wellness vacation with fitness activities. They are opting for the Himalayas, Goa’s shores or Kerala to enjoy a rejuvenating experience,” says Mohit Gupta, chief business officer-holidays, MakeMyTrip, adding that visits to Ayurvedic spas in Kerala, yoga ashrams in Rishikesh and community living in Pondicherry are fast becoming popular.   

All in the mind
The International Yoga Week (IYW) takes place on the banks of the river Ganga annually and offers nearly 70 hours of meditation. Hosted by Ganga Kinare, a riverside boutique hotel in Rishikesh, it features a host of special sessions by experts on Hatha Yoga, Pranayam, Baptiste Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga and meditation, among others. These are followed by interactive sessions and talks. In the evenings, guests can head to a private ghat and participate in the daily aarti. Classical performances are also held. This year, IYW is on from March 1-7. 

Heading abroad?
Darshan Maheshwari, country manager, Trafalgar India, recommends the following options:

Dead Sea, Jordan: Its mineral-rich waters have soothing properties. Soaking there is considered a natural spa treatment. Travellers can luxuriate in the warm, stimulating black mud and later float in the calming waters of the Dead Sea.
Pamukkale, Turkey: It holds the ancient ruins of Hierapolis, and is famous for white cotton castles formed by limestone-laden thermal springs. Resorts often have thermal pools for guests to relax in.
Budapest, Hungary: With an astounding array of baths and hundreds of springs, it is definitely a destination to head to for those looking for a wellness vacation.

Read: Tourism dept plans spa in south Delhi

In India  
For those heading on a wellness break, Yusuf Poonawala, VP-Bharat Deko, Cox & Kings, recommends the following:

Soukya, Bengaluru: The centre consists of 25 rooms on a 30-acre organic farm. It offers an extensive range of systems of medicine and therapies, including Ayurveda, homeopathy, naturopathy, yoga, acupuncture, reflexology and acupressure.
Ayurvedic resorts in Kerala: There are plenty of Ayurvedic resorts that cater to all budgets in Kerala, the home of Ayurveda.
Dhamma Giri, Igatpuri: One of the world’s largest vipassana meditation centres is located at the Vipassana Research Institute. Over 400 “cells” are provided for individual meditation. The 10-day courses are in high demand and are held twice a month.
Dhamma Pattana, Mumbai: It’s part of the renowned Global Pagoda complex that opened in 2009. The distinctive feature about the vipassana taught here is that it’s geared towards executives and professionals. The course contains talks specifically related to dealing with stress in the business world.
Dhamma Sikhara, Dharamsala: Meditating in the mountains, surrounded by fresh air and towering pine trees, makes for a particularly memorable experience. Ten-day courses are offered fortnightly from April to November.


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