What will drive wellness tourism in the future?

A new study from Health Tourism Worldwide and the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) has for the first time brought together industry experts and academics to identify what the main global and regional trends in wellness-motivated travel will be by 2025-2030. One prediction is that single men will be the leading segment for wellness travel in the Middle East.

The Wellness Tourism 2030 Post-COVID19 Study is the first to interview representatives of the wellness and travel industries in parallel with academic researchers focusing on wellness, wellbeing and tourism. The objective was to identify the main global and regional trends experts may envisage in wellness motivated travel by 2025-2030.

The study highlights that while the industry tends to focus on the physical nature of wellness treatments and programmes, academic representatives suggest that more attention should be paid to the intended outcome and benefits of those treatments and programmes.

Both respondent groups agreed that travellers will want to incorporate more “wellness” into their trips regardless of the key motivations. Wellness as a main motivation for travel remains important but at the same time, the study suggests that any service and programme could have an angle that can be further “wellnessified”.

Spiritual, natural and medical wellness potential

In the study, industry representatives estimate that spiritual practices and treatments based on local, natural resources represent the highest growth potential. Academic researchers find that sport and fitness as well as medical wellness propositions also show potential through to 2030. Both groups agree 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 centres can represent great growth potential, whereas workplace wellness trips should not expect significant development. The study confirmed that popularity of services and facility types can vary by market segments as well as by geographical areas.

Geographic variations remain

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 academic 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 friends, families and guests looking for healthy options. Both respondent groups believe that single men will be the leading segment for wellness travel in the Middle East.

Which are the right motivation triggers?

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 academic 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 realise the true value of good health, and it is these same people who will fuel the demand for everything that the industry embraces.”

The study highlights the need for more exchange of ideas and data between academics and industry experts in this sector. On the difference in perspective between the two groups, László Puczkó, CEO of Health Tourism Worldwide, states: “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.”

Led by Health Tourism Worldwide in cooperation with the WTA, the 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).