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Luxury retreats flooded with overseas enquiries as India opens for foreign tourists




Our Special Correspondent

 NEW DELHI, March 26: India opened its skies on Sunday (March 27) for foreign tourists after two years of Covid-induced shut-down. Luxury retreats, which have held off challenges faced by a pandemic-crippled industry, are anticipating a rise in demand with the resum­ption of regular international flights.

 Ananda in the Himalayas, a destination spa resort in the foothills close to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand state, has witnessed an all-time high interest from foreigners after the issuing of tourist visas recommenced in December 2021.

 Mahesh Natarajan, chief op­erating officer of IHHR Hospi­t­ality Ananda, its owner company, says: “Several of our regular Ananda guests from various co­u­ntries have written to us des­cribing a void they have experienced these last two years when they could not continue their annual wellness programme.”

 The luxury brand has received a glut of en­quiries from overseas recently, especially for its panchakarma- (an Ayurvedic technique) and meditation-based programmes, reflecting the twin needs of phy­s­ical and emotional cleansing and rejuvenation after such a challenging period.

“Starting March-end, we expect a very buoyant demand from clients from the US, Western Europe, West Asia and other regions,” Natarajan adds.

 A financial hub like Mumbai is already seeing pent-up demand from foreign business travel, says Amruda Nair, Director of Araiya Hotels & Resorts. However, she believes that the real impact for leisure tourism will be witnessed during the winter season from November to February.

“In long-haul markets such as the US, there is certainly interest in the cultural, heritage, wellness and adventure destinations in India. I am already seeing returning guests from the US in my hospitality business in Europe,” says Nair. Apart from three resorts in India, she also runs operations under Araiya Malta in the European nation.

Allen Machado, CEO, Niraa­maya Wellness Retreats, says their overseas clients — particularly from the UK, US and West Asia — are showing willingness to return to India. The war in Ukraine, however, has dimmed interest from CIS (Common­wealth of Independent States) countries, he adds.

 “If international flights open up, we will see a good inflow and resurgence July onwards, particularly in the second and third quarters of this financial year,” Machado says.

 Niraamaya runs wellness retreats (four in Kerala, one in Bengaluru and another in Kohima) and private residences (in Goa, Kerala and Karnataka). Earlier, 80 per cent of its visitors were from abroad. Post-Covid, that was reversed to more than 90 per cent in favour of domestic clients, who are extremely price-sensitive. Niraamaya had to re-strategize its revenue model, and effect a drop of up to 40-50 percent in tariffs.

 There has been a major shift in how people choose their holidays, with hygiene and safety measures, less crowded destinations that are within a driving distance, and healthy cuisine forming a trend that is here to stay, says Machado.

 Evolve Back Resorts got in touch with its foreign travel operators and destination management firms after a gap of nearly two years. Its Executive Director Jose Ramapuram  exp­ects overseas traffic to pick up only from October “as we now enter an off-season as far as in-bound tourism is concerned.”

“We are, however, experiencing demand from long-distance travellers from within India,” he adds. “During the pandemic, we found a lot of regional travellers from within Karnataka (where Evolve Back has three properties) and nearby states.”

 In November 2019, Evolve Back had also acquired its first international property in Cen­tral Kalahari. Botswana, where its resort is situated, had no domestic demand and catered only to the international market. Following the pandemic, for two years, it had few guests. But the African nation has now opened up, and Evolve Back is seeing a rise in international demand.

 Back in India at Ananda, which offers the luxury of retreating to a secluded 100-acre forest estate reserved only for resident guests, the highlights include personalisation for every guest — be it wellness assessment and guidance, one-on-one sessions of yoga and meditation, or tailor-made gourmet meals.

 At Araiya’s 38-room Palampur resort in Himachal, overlooking the Dhauladhar range, its new offerings include walking tours in nearby villages and hikes in the mountains with trained guides from the neighbouring local community.

 Apart from those who drive to the hills from places in the North within a four- to six-hour radius, there is an increased willingness to take single flights such as from Delhi to Dharamshala, Amruda Nair points out.

 She cites a study by online travel firm Expedia last year, which suggested that the top drivers of value for people when booking hotels are enhanced cleaning measures, flexible cancellation policies and ease of refunds. She expects this trend to continue, even as luxury resorts expect increased demand with Indian tourism finally opening up.

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Manudam Mehewara Initiative by Dialog, MAS, Hemas & CBL reach 10,000 families, invites all corporates to Join its countrywide emergency relief mission



Emergency relief is currently being distributed across all 25 districts

In a mission to provide emergency relief to the most vulnerable communities across the country amidst the ongoing economic crisis, the ‘Manudam Mehewara’ initiative reached its first milestone of aiding over 10,000 families in-need.

 Joining hands with like-minded partners including its execution partner Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement and independent auditor PwC Sri Lanka, Manudam Mehewara was initiated by Dialog Axiata PLC, MAS Holdings, Hemas Holdings PLC, and CBL Group with the end goal of providing emergency support to over 200,000 vulnerable families and communities across the country that do not have access to essential supplies and basic necessities. ITN, Siyatha, Swarnawahini, TV Derana and Vasantham are also supporting the initiative as media partners.

Emergency relief is currently being distributed across all 25 districts, and the Manudam Mehewara programme will conduct its relief efforts until a sustainable benefit transfer system is established through an effective recovery plan. Manudam Mehewara invites all corporates to join our shared mission to support over 200,000 vulnerable families across Sri Lanka.

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Ninewells Hospital raises awareness on thyroid disease in newborns to commemorate World Thyroid Day 2022



Ninewells Hospital, Sri Lanka’s leading woman and childcare hospital in the private sector, commemorates World Thyroid Day on 25th May by emphasising the significance of early detection and treatment of Congenital Hypothyroidism among newborns in Sri Lanka.

Congenital hypothyroidism (CHT) is a condition affecting infants from birth, and refers to an absent thyroid gland or a thyroid gland that is present but is unable to produce adequate thyroid hormones. On average, 1 in 4,000 babies are born with a severe form of CHT in Sri Lanka, while milder forms can be seen more commonly. If left untreated, the condition can affect brain development as well as normal growth in children and adolescents. Conversely, if detected and treated early, the damaging effects of CHT can be reversed and prevented completely.

“As Sri Lanka’s leading private sector childcare health service provider, we want to draw attention to the serious implications of Congenital Hypothyroidism on World Thyroid Day this year. Congenital Hypothyroidism is a condition which has a detrimental impact on postnatal development. For this reason, early detection and treatment is vital and should ideally begin within the first two weeks after birth,” said Dr. Vibash Wijeratne, Chief Operations Officer and Director, Ninewells Hospital.

In 2021 Ninewells Hospital unveiled a Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH) testing facility to support Sri Lanka’s national program for screening newborns for CHT and the country’s vision for a healthier population. Since then, the hospital has carried out over 8,000 tests in 2021 and over 2,000 tests between January and May of 2022.

With the unveiling, Ninewells Hospital became the first in the private sector to introduce a TSH screening machine and became one of the only two hospitals in the country to offer this screening service.

“The screening for CHT is a simple process that is performed using a heel prick test. At Ninewells, the test report following the screening is issued within a short span of three days which is unprecedented in the country. This allows healthcare providers to begin immediate treatment to avoid development impediments in newborns and infants,” Dr. Wijeratne also said.

Ninewells Hospital is Sri Lanka’s premier women’s and children’s hospital in the private sector, providing a variety of specialty services such as Obstetrics, Gynaecology, Paediatrics, and Fertility. The hospital, which is backed by the Access Group of Companies’ visionary leadership, continues to push boundaries and raise the bar for women’s and children’s healthcare in Sri Lanka.

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SL plunges into worst economic contraction in the wake of dramatic currency collapse – CBSL Governor



By Hiran H.Senewiratne

Sri Lanka will witness the worst economic contraction in its history, as it reels from a currency collapse of the rupee from 200 to 370 to the US dollar and interest rates contracted above 20 per cent, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe said.

“Sri Lanka is going through severe fuel shortages and power cuts after the credibility of a soft-peg was broken by mis-targeted interest rates in the course of targeting an output gap (printing money to boost growth) under the Keynesian ideology, Weerasinghe said while addressing the Press Club of the Sri Lanka Press Institute. The event was held at the Colombo Hilton on Monday.

Weerasinghe added: “At this juncture we cannot make normal imports for the next three to six months. Industries are saying there is no raw material. Only essential imports can be made on a priority basis in order to maintain day- to- day activities.

‘Sri Lanka’s economy contracted 3.6 per cent in 2020 amid the Coronavirus crisis and it also contracted 1.5 per cent in 2001, after a soft-peg crisis amid a civil war.

‘The latest failure of the unstable peg with the US dollar came after the Central Bank printed over two trillion rupees over two years to mis-target interest rates, leading to a steep collapse of the currency and a correction of the interest rates back to around 20 to 25 per cent.

‘The economic crisis has also spilled over into a political crisis and social unrest.

‘The rupee’s 2022 fall to 380 to the US dollar from 200 to the dollar is the worst currency crisis created by the soft-pegged Central Bank in its 72- year- old history.

‘The money printing Central Bank created its first economic crisis and output shock in 1953, bringing down growth to 0.7 per cent after triggering a now famous “hartal”.

‘An Exchange Control Act was also enacted in 1952 as the printed money from the newly set up Central Bank scrambled to go out, in a phenomenon that was repeated multiple times over the next 70 years and dragged the country into 16 IMF programs.

‘The unstable Central Bank was set up by a US money doctor in 1950 in the style of Argentina’s BCRA, abolishing a Currency Board that had kept the country stable through two World Wars and the Great Depression, where money printing above the external anchor was outlawed.

‘The worst recorded crises in the country include the 1948 uprising against the then colonial administration which took place after the British railway bubble burst, commodity prices fell and the then colonial government upped taxes. However, there is no information on the economic contraction that year.

‘Sri Lanka’s citizens burnt the houses and property of the elected ruling class on May 9, after the unstable peg collapsed in a botched float where interest rates were not allowed to go up before the float and a surrender rule pushed the rupee down.

‘Interest rates were allowed to go up after my appointment as CBSL Governor and the economy is now slowing and the headlong crash of the rupee peg has slowed.’

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