KOCHI: Being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state, Fort Kochi usually witnesses a steady stream of visitors who flock to the island town every year between November and March. Not just to experience its vistas and food but also to get a taste of wholesome benefits of the famed ayurveda treatments.
Consequently, the many spas and resorts in Fort Kochi make brisk business catering to the varied requirements of customers, ranging from one-time massage to full-fledged ‘panchakarma’ treatment. However, with the Covid-19 outbreak bringing the tourism sector to a screeching halt, ancillary industries including ayurveda centres continue to bear the brunt of the unprecedented slump.
Despite the state government’s nod to reopen spas last week, industry experts predict that almost 70 per cent of the approximate 72 licensed Ayurveda spas and centres registered in the city and the numerous unlicensed ones will remain shut. “Many popular centres in Fort Kochi have closed down for the foreseeable future as the expense of maintaining a space is too high. Also with the mainstay of ayurveda primarily being massages which involve physical contact, many feel the business cannot be sustained during a pandemic,” says Manoj V, founder of Ayurville, Ayurvedic Treatment & Spa in Pattalam, Fort Kochi.
However, some point towards a silver lining. “People have now become aware of the immunity-boosting benefits of ayurveda which provides systemic cleansing and rejuvenation to the body. Going forward, there will be increased demand for such treatments. Procedures like 'Sirodhara' provides mental relaxation while 'Pizhichal' and 'Njavarakizhi' increase immunity,” says Dr M S Harikrishnan, ayurveda practitioner.
“We have been getting bookings and enquiries consistently since mid-December. All of them are from domestic tourists visiting from other states. Prior to the pandemic, the ratio between foreign clients and Indians was almost even. Currently, we get only get four bookings for one-hour sessions per day. Earlier there were minimum 10 customers. We hopebusiness to pick up in the next few weeks as we have been getting considerable bookings for March,” says Manoj.
According to him, the kind of treatment tourists now opt for has also seen a shift. While there was a higher demand for extended treatments lasting a few days prior to the lockdown, customers now seem to prefer single-sitting massages. Centres that are currently operational vouch to be following strict protocol which involves a week-long gap from when the visitor lands in Kerala to the scheduling of the spa session.
“We have also been administering preventive medicines to all masseuses,” says Dr Harikrishnan.