Just a decade or so ago, the concept of wellness tourism was the exception. However, as an industry, the rise of wellness tourism has begun to escalate beyond expectations. Over the last 10 to 15 years, wellness has seeped into almost every piece of the hospitality industry. Even the definition has evolved over time as the interest in wellness has transformed the way people travel on a global level.
What is wellness tourism?
Wellness tourism has been defined by the Global Wellness Institute as journeys that are “made by tourists who seek to improve or maintain their well-being during or as a result of the trip.” But with increased interest in wellness vacations the hospitality industry is scampering to find enough variety to meet the needs. It is currently growing at nearly twice the rate of the tourism industry alone and it’s expected over the next two decades to be more than a $9 billion industry. Other sectors are quickly adapting to travelers and finding new ways to incorporate wellness and healthy alternatives into current travel trends. It’s quickly changing every facet of the travel industry.
Guests Tend to Spend More for Wellness Options
In the 1980s and 1990s, resort spas and hotels and yoga studios were not abundant. As consumers are making a demand on the industry for more wellness options, yoga studios, halotherapy, cryotherapy and other options are frequently found in urban hotels offering business guests access to a strategy for unwinding. Rooftop yoga is incorporated into sightseeing for vacationers. People are more willing to spend more time and money in exchange for options to benefit their wellness. On average, tourists will spend about 60% more on wellness vacations that traditional tourists. Couple that with the fact that wellness tourism alone accounts for at least 1/6 of all dollars spent in the tourism industry and you’ll see how lucrative it can be for hotels and other accommodations to include wellness programing on some level.
As the travel industry transitions, it’s interesting to watch the innovative and creative ways the industry has begun to incorporate wellness and health into travel experiences around the world. Hotels have begun to collaborate with wellness professionals to create options onsite that go beyond the traditional treadmill in a “fitness” area. They may offer guests opportunities for relaxation, advanced healing treatments, and spa experiences. Other destinations offer a wider variety of options from immersive wellness programs to horseback riding and biking, to meditation.
Two Types of Wellness Travelers
When wellness tourism first emerged, it might have been a smaller, elite, and wealthy group of leisure tourists who wanted to simply visit health resorts, meditation retreats, and destination spas. But it has far outgrown this small group and encompasses a much broader and more diverse group of consumers with varied motivations, values, and interests. The two types of wellness travelers include:
· Primary Wellness Travelers: This group is traveling to a destination with wellness being their main motivation.
· Secondary Wellness Travelers: This newer group looks to maintain wellness by participating in wellness experiences while they are on a trip for business or leisure purposes.
Of course, the economic benefits of the wellness tourism industry outreaches the narrower set of related businesses such as spas, thermal & Mineral springs, boot camps, and wellness retreats. Today’s healthy traveler is looking for a way to sustain their healthy lifestyle while they are traveling. As an industry, this means meeting the growing demands for healthy eating, mind-body practices, exercise or fitness routines, nature experiences, and connections with the local culture and people. In addition to their wellness experience, the tourist will also need transportation, lodging, food, and entertainment which is an economic boost for the region. This not only puts a demand on the wellness tourism industry to vary their approach, it also gives the hospitality industry as well as others the opportunity to infuse wellness into all types of services and amenities.
Ultimately, wellness tourism may help many destinations mitigate the disparity of mass tourism or even over tourism since wellness travelers tend to spend more and favor authentic and unique experiences.