Wellness Tourism Continues Record Growth

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It’s official – wellness tourism is booming. According to the new report, “Global Wellness Tourism Economy”  by the nonprofit Global Wellness Institute™’ (GWI), wellness tourism increased from a $539 billion market in 2015 to $639 billion in 2017, or 6.5% annually, more than twice as fast as tourism overall (3.2%).

According to GWI’s senior researchers Katherine Johnston and Ophelia Yeung, “The wellness concept is transforming almost every aspect of the travel industry—and wellness tourism will only grow faster in years ahead, as it lies at the powerful intersection of two massive, booming industries: the $2.6 trillion tourism industry and the $4.2 trillion wellness market.”

This type of momentum should come as no surprise. Consumers, now more than ever, are focused on their health and think of wellness as a lifestyle, which includes not only how they spend their money on food and personal care products, but increasingly, money spent on their travel needs.

Wellness Traveler Profile

Travel dedicated to self-care and enhancing one’s personal wellbeing can mean different things to different people. However, the pervasive stereotype of the wellness traveler as part of a small, elite, rich group going on yoga or meditation retreats is outdated. Increasingly, the vast majority of wellness travelers belong to what the GWI terms, the “Secondary Wellness Traveler” group, identified as those individuals who participates in wellness experiences on any leisure or business trip.

And the numbers really tell the story. According the report, “…it’s actually the more mainstream secondary breed that comprises the dramatic bulk of the market: 89% of wellness trips and 86% of expenditures.” The takeaway is the sharp increase of travelers who, although “wellness” might not have been the mission of their trip, definitely want to explore their wellness options once they get to their destination.

Where They Are Traveling

The US market alone drives over one-third of world revenues. (Now over one-third of states in the US promote some form of wellness tourism on their official state tourism website.) The top five destinations for wellness travel are the US, Germany, China, France, and Japan. Together they represent 59% of the global market. Growth markets to look out for are China and India.

Expect to see more countries marketing themselves as wellness destinations. Unique strategies include Kerala, India branding itself “Land of Ayurveda,” and Costa Rica’s “Wellness Pura Vida” campaign.

Wellness tourism is a boon for a destination’s bottom line as the average wellness traveler is typically a high-spender. According to GWI, “In 2017, international wellness tourists, on average, spent $1,528 per trip, 53% more than the typical international tourist.”

Continued Growth

While America and Europe will continue to show momentum, rapid growth will be seen in the Asia Pacific region with countries like the Philippines, Chile, Malaysia and Vietnam all showing double-digit growth.  By 2022, the spend will hit $919 billion, with 1.2 billion wellness trips taken annually.

The wellness lifestyle movement shows no signs of stopping. More importantly, as consumers are active participants about what they expect from a nutritional and self-care product point of view, they are also setting standards for both the leisure and business travel experience. And wellness is definitely high on their list.

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