What is wellness tourism

Wellness travelers are proactive in looking for ways to improve or maintain health and quality of life, often focusing on prevention.

Wellness tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and the main reason is that it puts your wellbeing and overall health at the center of your travel experience.

According to the Global Wellness Institute report titled Global Wellness Tourism Economy,  the sector will grow at an average annual rate of 7.5% through to 2022 – compared to 6.4% annual growth forecast for overall global tourism.

“Wellness tourism burst into the consumer consciousness just a very a few years ago, and it’s hard to grasp the speed of its growth and evolution,” authors said in the report.

They also noted that it converges with hospitality and travel in unprecedented ways, from the ‘healthy hotel’ concept going utterly mainstream to airports, airlines, and cruises.

CNN reports worldwide wellness market was $4.2 trillion dollars in 2017, with $639 billion dedicated to wellness tourism.

The World Health Organization defines wellness as a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being,” and it incorporates attitudes and activities that prevents disease, improves health, enhances the quality of life, and bring a person to increasingly optimum levels of well-being.

What is wellness tourism

In a sense, people who take any kind of vacation for leisure, rest, and relaxation are improving their wellness as part of tourism.

However, this broad definition is not particularly useful for governments and businesses seeking to target consumers and to develop and promote this sector.

Therefore, the Global Wellness Institute has established a definition that captures the motivations and characteristics of people engaging in wellness tourism, so that businesses and other stakeholders can understand and tap into its vast opportunities.

The institute defines wellness tourism as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing.”

This is consistent with the World Health Organization’s definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, which goes beyond mere freedom from disease or infirmity.

Types of travelers

The Global Wellness Institute splits the wellness tourism market into two types of travelers:

Primary wellness travelers. For those who are primarily motivated by wellness offerings to take a trip.

An example would be someone going to a yoga retreat or wellness resort.

Secondary wellness travelers. For those who want to maintain wellness or participate in wellness activities during any kind of travel.

An example would be someone who visits the gym while they are on a trip.

Wellness tourism brings the promise of rest and rejuvenation, healthy lifestyle, transformative experiences, and more.

Moreover, wellness travelers pursue diverse services, including physical fitness and sports, beauty treatments, a healthy diet, and weight management.

Also, relaxation and stress relief, meditation, yoga, and health-related education using conventional, alternative, complementary, herbal, or homeopathic medicine.

“It recharges the body and nourishes the mind. It’s a balance of awe-inspiring destinations, rejuvenating activities and healthy food experiences, helping travelers return home feeling even better than when they left,” assures Robyn James, director of brand management of G Adventures.

For James, wellness isn’t about relaxing.

“It’s an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence. This means that it’s less about doing things slowly and more about doing things with the intention to be healthier and more present. I think this mindset is appealing to more and more people and is less polarizing than it used to be.”

Difference between wellness tourism and medical travel

Though they are connected in a certain way, very often, people may confuse it with medical travel.

While wellness tourists travel to improve or maintain their health and quality of life, medical travelers seek a destination in order to receive medical treatment or diagnose a certain condition.

A tourist of this kind is often focusing on prevention, while medical tourists generally travel reactively to receive treatment.

Examples of activities for wellness tourists, by category:

1- Health (integrative health centers, CAM centers, and wellness centers)

  • Preventive check-ups
  • Healthy eating

2- Nutrition (organic restaurants, health food stores)

  • Weight management
  • Detox

3- Fitness

  • Fitness classes
  • Pilates

4- Eco and adventure (parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and nature preserves)

  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Nature visits

5- Personal growth (lifestyle retreats and wellness retreats)

  • Life coaching
  • Stress reduction
  • Music and arts

6- Spiritual and connection

  • Prayer
  • Biofeedback

7- Mind-body 

  • Yoga
  • Taichi

8- Spa and beauty (healthy hotels, wellness cruises, health resorts, spas, salons, bath, and springs)

  • Massage
  • Body treatments
  • Facials
  • Hair and nails

About the Global Wellness Institute

The Global Wellness Institute is a non-profit organization considered the
leading global research in the industry.

It is known for introducing major initiatives and regional events that bring together leaders and visionaries to chart the future.