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News Article

Rapid growth predicted for wellness tourism


Global market estimated at US$639 billion

The wellness tourism sector is predicted to continue growing at a faster rate than the general tourism industry, as more travellers focus on their health, fitness and well-being, according to research revealed on Tuesday, 6 November at WTM London 2018.

A report from the Global Wellness Institute entitled Global Wellness Tourism Economy predicts that wellness tourism will grow at an average annual rate of 7.5% through to 2022, considerably faster than the 6.4% annual growth which is forecast for overall global tourism. It is claimed that in 2015-2017 the sector grew by 6.5% annually from 2015-2017 (more than twice the growth rate for general tourism). Travelers made 830 million wellness trips in 2017, which is 139 million more than in 2015.

The Global Wellness Institute estimates that wellness tourists spent $639.4 billion in 2017 – a figure that is set to top $919 billion by 2022, representing 18% of the global tourism market. The number of wellness tourism trips is forecast to grow by 8.1% annually to reach 1.2 billion in 2022.

The report says that the wellness tourism market can be split into two types of travellers: primary wellness travellers, who are motivated by wellness to take a trip or choose their destination based on its wellness offerings (e.g., someone visiting a wellness resort or participating in a yoga retreat); and secondary wellness travellers, who seek to maintain wellness or engage in wellness activities during any kind of travel (e.g., someone who visits a gym, gets a massage, or prioritizes healthy food when they take a trip). The bulk of wellness tourism is done by secondary wellness travellers, who account for 89% of wellness tourism trips and 86% of expenditures in 2017. [The broad definition of secondary wellness travel, including almost any healthy activity such as bathing or eating healthy food included as perhaps a peripheral part of a trip, accounts for the high value put on wellness travel in the report].

“Growth has been driven by an expanding global middle class, growing consumer desire to adopt a wellness lifestyle, rising interest in experiential travel, and increasing affordability of flights and travel options,” says GWI researchers.

“Europe remains the destination for the largest number of wellness trips (292 million in 2017), while North America leads in wellness tourism expenditures ($241.7 billion in 2017). Asia has made the most gains in the number of wellness trips and wellness tourism expenditures, with demand stimulated by strong economies and an expanding middle class.”

Over half of the projected growth in wellness tourism expenditures (and three-quarters of the growth in wellness trips) through 2022 is forecast to take place in Asia-Pacific, Latin America-Caribbean, Middle East-North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa, driven by a dramatic increase in both domestic tourism and intra-regional wellness tourism in these markets.

The report says that wellness travellers spend more per trip than average tourists. In 2017, international wellness tourists on average spent $1,528 per trip, 53% more than the typical international tourist. The premium for domestic wellness tourists is even higher, spending $609 per trip, 178% more than the typical domestic tourist.

The lucrative nature of wellness tourists means there are many opportunities for tourism businesses to “infuse wellness into their offerings and capture spending”, adds the report. It cites examples such as airports and airlines, which are offering spa treatments, wellness classes and healthier food options.

Meanwhile, ‘healthy hotels’ are now mainstream, with in-room fitness equipment, healthy snacks and partnerships with wellness brands. A similar trend is seen in the cruise sector, with wellness-themed voyages, notes GWI.

Paul Nelson, WTM Portfolio Press & PR Manager, said: “It’s very good news for the tourism industry in general that the wellness sector is in such good shape. “It offers plenty of scope for travel businesses and tourist boards to cater for this robust market and develop fresh ideas for consumers.”

At the time of writing, the Global Wellness Tourism Economy report is available for download from this link. It was authored by Ophelia Yeung and Katherine Johnston, Senior Research Fellows at the Global Wellness Institute.

Leisure Tourism subscribers can find relevant publications on the database by searching either for the single word “wellness”, or by more specific terms including "wellness tourism" OR "wellness industry" OR "spa tourism" OR "wellness tourists." The search results include a number of CABI eBook chapters, including a 2018 chapter by Patterson on health and wellness tourism and older travellers, a 2016 case study by Hull on wellness tourism at Sparkling Hill Resort, Canada, and a chapter by Smith (2013) on wellness tourism and the extent to which it can transform the quality of life of individuals, groups and communities.

Full Text articles hosted by Leisure Tourism include Damijanic and Ruzic (2015) who profile tourists staying in wellness hotels in Croatia, and a study by Vasileiou et al. (2016) on wellness tourism in Greece. Recent abstracts on wellness tourism include a paper by Han et al. (2018) on spa tourism as a factor in building destination loyalty to Thailand, and Huang and Xu (2018) who discuss wellness tourism in the “longevity village” of Bama, China.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • David Simpson
  • Date
  • 07 November 2018
  • Source
  • Global Wellness Institute
  • Subject(s)
  • Hospitality Sector
  • Tourism