Wellness Tourism – growth, impact, momentum

Wellness Tourism – growth, impact, momentum

The autumn season always feels like the busiest of times and this year is no exception.  I’ve recently returned from the Global Wellness Tourism Congress and Summit in Marrakech and now the arrangements and organisation is ramping up for the WTM and the Wellness Tourism Programme component within it. This is closely followed by two roundtable discussions that will include tourism and ministry personnel in New York and Washington DC.

New Numbers

At the recent Congress (representing the first day of the Global Spa and Wellness Summit), a review of the topline  2012 Global Wellness Tourism Economy report numbers were announced (this years’ full report will be released at the end of this month).

The original report, carried out by SRI International and released October 2013 has propelled wellness tourism forward in a way that could not have been previously imagined. Although wellness tourism has already been happening for a very long time , having quantifiable data and credible research has been the super highway of education and spotlight for this rapidly growing tourism segment.

  • The number of global wellness tourism trips has grown from 524 million to 586 million – a growth of 11.8% since 2012
  • Global wellness tourism expenditures have grown from $439billion to $494billion – a growth of 12.7% since 2012 and represents 14.6% of all expenditures

As a comparative,  tourism trips generally grew by an estimated 8.7% and expenditures by an estimated 7.3%, wellness tourism showing a significant and accelerating growth pattern.


Why is wellness tourism growing so fervently?

First, lets consider the convergence of issues, trends and changing demographics.  There is genuine fear for the escalating costs of health care, chronic illness and disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer continue to grow. The size of the over 60’s population is expanding and simultaneously, the birth rate in developed countries is declining (over 50% of the world population has birth rates lower than 2.1 – defined as the population replacement rate ). 

More people are living alone – being ‘lonely together’ was a phrase coined by Dr. Kjell Nordstrom at the Global Spa and Wellness Summit that illustrates the rising number of people living alone, combined with virtual online communities that redefine ‘togetherness’.

Depression and mental health related illness is also growing, the previous point is no doubt a contributory factor.  Dementia is increasing –  in 2013 it was documented that 44.4 million people had dementia worldwide – this is estimated to increase to 75.6 million by 2030 – mainly in developing countries.

Q. What is wellness tourism?  A. It is travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining and enhancing one’s personal wellbeing.

The media coverage, since the 2012 Wellness Tourism Economy Numbers were published last year has been incredible – hundreds of news stories, in Forbes, NY Times, Bloomberg, CNN and countless others – as yahoo put it a couple of weeks ago “wellness tourism is what everyone is buzzing about”.

Wellness Tourism is resonating and, given the context of challenges that we face,  it is no surprise that a desire for renewed meaning, authenticity, connection, nature, serenity and escape is becoming the backdrop and intention of our travel decision making.


Quoted sources:

*Forbes 2012

*Alzeimers Disease International

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Anni is the founder and CEO of Anni Hood, Wellness Business Consultancy, an international advisory firm working with both public and private sector organisations who seek advice and global expertise in the rapidly evolving sector of spa, health, wellness and wellness tourism. Widely recognised as a leading wellness business specialist, Anni advises and supports public organisations, private businesses and individuals to achieve optimal results within the realm of health and wellness. Her work anchors in conceptual development, brand creation, integration and enablement of services, strategic and operational design, operational delivery, programming and re positioning. In addition, Anni leads wellness tourism for the Global Wellness Institute and is the founder and visionary behind K.I.S Lifestyle ® – an online wellness community that enables affordable and accessible integrative health expertise through a range of assessment tools, programming support and coaching options. Her career history has carved out a unique appreciation of multi sector wellness offerings. Anni’s experience has been in hotels, spas and restaurants, inclusive leisure resorts and high end global brands such as the Jumeirah Group, The Sanctuary, Meadowood and Clinique La Prairie. You can find her at www.annihood.com

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