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Traveling for business or pleasure? How about wellness?

Traveling for business or pleasure? How about wellness?


BIZMOLOGY — When people travel, there’s usually an assumption that it’s either for business or pleasure. But a new category of travel known as wellness tourism is driving much of the growth in the hospitality industry these days.

The wellness tourism market, defined as any travel intended to enhance one’s personal well-being, is growing about 50 percent faster than the overall tourism market, according to SRI International. Wellness now makes up about $2 trillion of the $3.2 trillion global tourism economy.

Rather than rushing to tourist sites, eating big meals, and leaving your exercise routine at home, wellness travel is more about personal enrichment. Think yoga retreat. A wellness vacation may also center around being more involved in local culture rather than the typical tourist destinations, which may include learning about food and agriculture in a region. Often vacationers volunteer for charitable causes, also called “voluntourism.” Whatever the specific activities (which incidentally do not include medical tourism), the overall experience is about health and well-being.

Although wellness travelers only account for 6 percent of overall travel, they make up about 14 percent of total tourism spending. Wellness travelers spend about 130 percent more than the average traveler, according to SRI International.

To capitalize on the growing segment, hospitality industries around the globe are trying to attract the wellness tourist. For example, hotels are starting to offer more amenities that focus on health. Wellness travel agents are even a growing niche among travel professionals. Spas are also attracting more vacationers as the wellness tourism market grows.

The Middle East/North African region is the fastest-growing wellness tourism market, expected to increase 16.2 percent annually between 2012 and 2017. Sub-Saharan Africa ranks as the second-fastest-growing market, increasing 12.6 percent annually in the same time period, according to the Global Spa & Wellness Summit.

These regions are attractive to tourists seeking a spa experience because of the growing number of luxury hotels and spas, along with the traditional hammams and baths common in these parts of the world. South Africa, the UAE, and Israel are top destinations in these regions due to well-established spas and ongoing tourism investments. The Latin American wellness tourism market is rapidly expanding as well.

So as you plan your next getaway, which type of vacation will you plan? Business, pleasure, or wellness?

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