A new report by SRI International on the global impact of wellness tourism says that wellness tourism is a US$438.6 billion global market. Wellness tourism accounts for 14% of all domestic and international tourism expenditures.
In ‘The Global Wellness Tourism Economy report
by Ophelia Yeung, and Katherine Johnston, wellness tourism is defined as travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing.
Domestic wellness tourism is much larger than international, representing 84% of wellness tourism trips and 68% of expenditures. Wellness tourism is projected to grow by more than 9% per year through 2017, nearly 50% faster than overall global tourism.
Wellness tourists are high-yield tourists, spending 130% more than the average tourist. More than one half of the projected growth in wellness tourism trips through 2017 will take place in Asia, Latin America and Middle East/North Africa. India will have the highest increase in wellness tourism and is expected to grow at a rate of 20% a year through 2017.
Ophelia Yeung comments,” This new research clearly reveals that more people are now choosing destinations that help them keep or get healthy while traveling, while a smaller and also growing segment are also now taking trips with the specific, sole purpose of improving their personal well-being.”
The wellness tourism economy includes all expenditures made by tourists on these types of leisure and business trips, including lodging, food and beverage, activities/excursions, shopping and transport.
An international wellness tourist spends 65 % more per trip than the average international tourist; the domestic wellness tourist spends about 150 % more than the average domestic tourist.
SRI makes a distinction between primary and secondary wellness tourists: the former defined as those taking a trip entirely for wellness purposes, the latter engaging in wellness-related activities as part of a trip. Secondary-purpose wellness tourists constitute the majority (87 %) of total wellness tourism trips and expenditures (86 %). And while wellness tourists spend dramatically more than the average international or domestic tourist across the board, a secondary-purpose wellness traveler spends less than a primary.
While tourism authorities tend to focus on inbound, international travelers, domestic wellness tourism is actually significantly larger than its international equivalent—representing 84 % of wellness tourism trips and 68 % of expenditures. International inbound wellness tourism represents a $139 billion market (32 % of total).
While over 50 % of the projected growth in wellness tourism through 2017 will come from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East/North Africa, the SRI study found that today’s typical wellness traveler is well-educated, well-off, middle-aged and hails from Western and industrialized nations. Europe and North America drive the outbound international wellness tourism segment, with five countries—the U.S., Germany, Japan, France and Austria—currently representing 63 % of the global market. France, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the USA drive the most inbound, international wellness tourism arrivals. Countries that attract the most domestic wellness tourism trips: USA. Germany, Japan, China and France.
Spa tourism is a core component of wellness tourism (41 % of market), but non spa-related wellness tourism (whether healthy hotels and cruises; baths/springs; fitness, yoga or lifestyle retreats; travel to nature parks/preserves; organic/natural restaurant expenditures; and other healthy lodging and retail) represent 59 % of the market.
Jean-Claude Baumgarten of the World Travel & Tourism Council
comments “ Wellness tourism is poised to reshape tourism as we know it. So many 21st century forces are fueling it, including the rise of chronic diseases and the unprecedented stress of modern life. What people want to achieve during their ever diminished time off is undergoing a sea change, with millions more every year demanding destinations that deliver physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental health—along with enjoyment.”