Industry Experts and Academics predict the future of wellness tourism.
Budapest 15 February 2020
The key results of the pioneering study from Health Tourism Worldwide in cooperation with the Wellness Tourism Association suggest that a sustainable relaunch of the wellness tourism industry would very much benefit from a much closer cooperation between the industry and academia. The online study was conducted during the spring of 2020 and collected responses from 131 industry representatives (from 25 countries) and from 59 academia representatives (from 24 countries).
The Wellness Tourism 2030 Post-COVID19 Study is the first that the representatives of the wellness and travel industries are interviewed parallel with academic researchers focusing on wellness, wellbeing and tourism. The objective of this study was to identify the main global and regional trends experts may envisage in wellness motivated travel by 2025-2030.
Both respondent groups (industry experts and academics) agree that travellers will want to incorporate more “wellness” into their trips regardless of the key motivations. It is confirmed that wellness as a main motivation for travel remains important. At the same time it appears that any service and programme could have an angle that can be further “wellnessified!”
The study highlights that while the industry tends to focus on the physical nature of wellness treatments and programmes, academia representatives suggest that more attention should be paid to the intended outcome and benefits of those treatments and programmes. As Laszlo Puczko, CEO of Health Tourism Worldwide mentions: “Industry respondents discussed treatments and services in term of what is offered, whereas academia suggests that we should focus on the expected outcomes of those treatments and programmes.”
During the global travel crisis brought about by the pandemic, the industry look has looked for resources and approaches that can influence the future of wellness travel. Based on our study industry representatives estimate that spiritual practices and treatments based on local, natural resources represent the highest growth potential. Academic researchers find that sport & fitness as well as medical wellness propositions also show potential through to 2030. Interestingly there is an agreement between both groups that alternative therapies and New Age approaches may not represent significant opportunities. The findings confirm that wellness has several facets and the industry should be open to new products and ideas, e.g. spirituality/wellness oriented festivals.
The results suggest that resort spas, lifestyle-oriented resorts and eco spas and wellness centers can represent great growth potential, whereas workplace wellness trips should not expect significant development. It is critical to note that the study confirmed that popularity of services and facility types can vary by market segments as well as by geographical areas.
Although wellness, as a concept, enjoys global interest, the ways in which it is used in hospitality, healthcare and destination development very much depend on the local circumstances. For example industry representatives believe that in the USA it is solo female travellers who remain the dominant market segment for the wellness travel product. At the same time it is also anticipated by academia representatives that guests looking for healthy options as well as same-sex couples will also represent important segments along with the solo female travellers. In Europe, however, the results suggest a more balanced segment mix with couples, groups of friend, families and guests who look for healthy options, in general. Not unexpectedly, both respondent groups believe that single men will be the leading segment for wellness travel in the Middle East.
The greatest differences in how the two respondent groups consider the future of wellness tourism lies in the assessment of motivation triggers for wellness travel. Industry representatives believe that de-stress, recharge and relaxation will lead the demand for wellness trips, whereas academia respondents stress the importance of self-healing, fitness and also as a personal reward.
The Wellness Travel 2030 Post COVID19 study results highlight that travellers want to know and understand more about wellness travel. They will actively seek out relevant services, hotels, resorts, retreats and destinations. Post-pandemic wellness-minded travellers will make decisions about their travels much closer to the actual date of travel, and likely they will prefer destinations that are closer to home.
“As both industry and academic respondents agree – the future of wellness tourism is bright,” says Anne Dimon, President and CEO of the Wellness Tourism Association. “Over the last year, so many more people have come to realize the true value of good health, and it is these same people who will fuel the demand for everything that the industry embraces.”
It is clear that there is not only room but it is a need for the exchanging of ideas and data between the two respondent groups. This pioneering study confirmed that sharing the approaches and the results of how industry and academia look at wellness travel can be mutually beneficial and inspiring.
Health Tourism Worldwide is a pioneering initiative which looks at leisure, lifestyle and travel from a wellbeing perspective. HTWW founders have been working with public sector representatives in supporting their planning and strategic work as well as facilitating private sector development in four continents. HTWW proudly incorporates academic rigour in every advisory, strategy making, research or feasibility assessing work. HTWW industry intelligence, disruptive and inspiring work has been used widely.
HTWW had run its visionary 4WResearch: Well What for Whom and Where from in 2012. We are proud to recognise that most of our projections were proved to be realistic and many got realised.
In this wellness tourism research project we understood that wellness tourism represents forms of tourism which aim to improve and balance all of the main domains of human life including physical, mental, emotional, occupational, intellectual and spiritual. As the research partner Wellness Tourism Association highlighted wellness tourism is a specific division of the global tourism industry that is defined by the common goal of marketing natural assets and activities primarily focused on serving the wellness-minded consumer and those who want to be.
Launched in 2018 as a U.S. based not-for-profit, privately-held, global organization, the WTA was established and designed to support and serve the growing wellness tourism industry.
The mission is to support and further the growth and development of the wellness tourism industry through networking, education research and communication.
The objectives are to bring clarification to the industry thru definitions and standards and as well as educate consumers and travel agents to recognize legitimate and credible wellness suppliers and operators.
Membership is open to qualifying destination marketing organizations, hotels and resorts, destination spas, tour operators, travel advisors, wellness educators and others with an interest in supporting the industry and helping shape its future and sustainability.
In celebration of its third year of operation, the WTA has partnered with The Travel Institute on a Wellness Travel Specialist Course.