The demand for Wellness Tourism is growing, as retreat operators offer more packages to strengthen the body, relax the mind and cultivate the soul. Holistic experiences and lifestyle training are the new Piña Coladas.
Though it may seem like it, the practice of healthy vacationing is not at all new. Wellness ranches, weight-loss getaways, spa weekends and exercise boot camps were around when your grandparents were thinking about it. But it’s really only in the last few years that “wellness tourism” has truly gotten the travel industry’s attention… and it’s catching fire.
As some people put it: Travel upgraded with an objective of improving one’s individual spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well-being. This originally started as an afterthought while travelling for pleasure (or even business), but recently has been promoted from temporary whim to a lasting movement.
Decision makers in the hospitality industry have taken notice and made significant changes to their vacation experiences. Wellness vacations used to be perceived as fluffy pampering, like manicures and Jacuzzis. Today, it is so much more, and health-conscious guests are fully expecting their investments to be time well spent. Not only to escape, but to evolve.
And hefty investments these travellers make! The wellness economy worldwide is estimated to be worth more than $3.7 trillion (US). In keeping with that trend, wellness tourism has become the fastest growing sector of the travel industry, bringing in a whopping $494 billion (US) annually. And it’s only going up!
Clearly, for the health-conscious traveller and those who want to get (or stay) in shape —a segment of the population that is generally younger, better educated, and highly disciplined— exercising isn’t something reserved for the gym anymore. And it’s not a 2-3 time per week thing they force themselves to do. It’s a way of life, and there’s no way most will abandon it when they leave on vacation. Whether that holiday is 2 days or 2 months long, their priorities won’t change. If anything, they take pleasure in eating uber-healthy, avoiding alcohol, and waking up extra early for that yoga class or jog along the beach.
Put another way: there’s now a serious appetite for more rewarding travel experiences and a real demand for sustainable healthy lifestyle changes to take home. More and more, the new generation values restoration and rejuvenation over hedonism and gluttony.
The take-home message for tour operators and the hospitality industry? The lines between Wellness Tourism and Traditional Tourism are fully blurred heading into summer 2018. And it only makes sense, doesn’t it? Where else can one get a good cleanse, a different kind of meditation, or learn new exercises than away from home? Away from their usual (often toxic) big city surroundings. People aren’t going away to drown themselves in booze, fatty food, and risky behaviour anymore. They don’t want to drown their memories of everyday life anymore. They intend to create healthy new ones!