Wellness, health and travel: use your local assets

One size does not fit all in wellness and medical travel.  A new report looks at lessons learned from wellness and medical travel markets in 39 countries and regions. It suggests that market opportunities are very much defined by the maturity of the local market as well as the availability of local resources and infrastructure.

As a follow up on studies by Health Tourism Worldwide (HTWW), in cooperation with the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) and IMTJ, HTWW has released The Wellness, Health and Travel 2030: Regional and Country Outlook post-COVID19 Report.

The study highlights the importance and influence of local assets and market characteristics in the refocusing of wellness and medical travel in 2025-2030. It offers country and region-specific analysis of global and local trends and indicates how travel, hospitality, healthcare, spa and wellness businesses and organisations might benefit from the growing interest in health, wellness and wellbeing.

“COVID-19 has complicated what is already a complex and confusing market for health and wellness travel”, says Keith Pollard, IMTJ Editor in Chief. “The report brings clarity to this challenging market, and highlights the need for destinations and service providers to refine and focus their product and marketing mix. Market segmentation and an in-depth understanding of the drivers of wellness tourism are the key to success.”

Hit hard by the impact of COVID-19, the global leisure, recreation, hospitality, spa, wellness, travel and healthcare sectors are looking for ideas and opportunities the pandemic might have initiated.  The report sheds light on segments, facilities and properties as well as treatments and services that will play important roles in the restart.

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. The report confirms the long held belief that the popularity of services and facility/property types varies by market segments as well as by countries and regions.

The study looks at many aspects relating to travel for medical or wellness reasons, including:

  • How certain countries who have managed the COVID-19 pandemic can have a direct impact on how attractive they will be for medical tourists.
  • Listing eleven recommendations that help to make corporate travel more wellness orientated, e.g., collect traveller wellness feedback post-trip.
  • Drawing from the 2020 WTA Wellness Travel Consumer Survey (North America), identifying twelve key consumer motivations for taking a wellness vacation, e.g. social connection has become a more important focus for the wellness traveller.
  • Assessing key segments with growth opportunity for wellness travel, which now include groups of friends, families, solo men, and in certain countries same sex couples.

The report suggests that while hotel spas continue to be popular in certain countries, the hospitality sector will see more eco-, and adventure wellness, as well as hot spring-based properties.

The study was conducted during the spring of 2021 and collected responses from 39 countries and regions, representing every continent.  Over 40 local experts provided insights to country and regional resources and characteristics, and defined how the local markets fit or do not fit in the global and regional forecasts.

“What the report most signifies to me,” says Anne Dimon, President/CEO of the Wellness Tourism Association, “is that when it comes to wellness tourism, the world is certainly not on the same page, speaking the same language. Many regions of the world continue to believe that wellness tourism is all about the spa experience. It is very evident that more education is needed on the topic.”

“We believe that every destination and project can have its own identity as well as a unique experience and benefit proposition, whether they are hotels, spas, wellness centres, hospitals, clinics, retreats, hot springs, regions or destinations“, says CEO & Co-founder of HTWW László Puczkó. “Although there may be some global meta and fashion trends, fundamental intelligence still needs to be collected from every country and from every market.”

The long term success of wellness travel and the sustainability of communities and destinations require hospitality, leisure, healthcare, recreation and spa/wellness investors to pay closer attention to local market information and forecasts. One size may not fit all.