Wellness tourism is growing faster than ever — this is why people are hooked

Wellness tourism is forecast to reach more than US$919 billion in 2022 — making it bigger than the overall tourism industry. So why are people so hooked? . Getty Images

If the Eat, Pray, Love era of travel taught us anything, people are spending money to find wellness abroad.

The wellness tourism industry is predicted to reach US$919 billion by 2022, according to a recent report by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI).

This makes it the fastest growing tourism industry, even twice as fast as tourism as a whole, AFP reported.

Robyn James, director of brand management at G Adventures, told Global News that wellness tourism has an intention to jump-start one’s overall well-being.

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“It recharges the body and nourishes the mind. It’s a balance of awe-inspiring destinations, rejuvenating activities and healthy food experiences, helping travellers return home feeling even better than when they left,” James explained.

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Getting into the business

G Adventures, a travel company that specializes in packaged tours, will launch their own wellness program in 2019. And with the data to back it up, it makes sense for travel companies to move in this direction.

“Over the past few years, the world has seen a rise in stress and anxiety, and there’s an increasing consumer interest in all things related to maintaining and improving health, even while vacationing,” James said, adding the GWI also noted 71 per cent of travel agents in North America and Europe said consumers were more aware of wellness tourism than ever before.

People are more informed and concerned about their overall health and want to travel in ways that reflect their lifestyle,” James said.

What does it look like?

There are a number of companies that offer wellness packages or tours. Pravassa has a curated wellness program that includes trips to countries like India and Cambodia as well as islands like Bali, while a simple Google search can easily uncover package tours in countries all around the world.

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The GWI noted that the U.S., Germany, China, France and Japan made the most money from wellness tourism last year. Canada came in at number eight.

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“Wellness tourism burst into the consumer consciousness just a very few years ago, and it’s hard to grasp the speed of its growth and evolution,” authors said in the GWI report. “Wellness, hospitality and travel are now converging in unprecedented ways, from the ‘healthy hotel’ concept going utterly mainstream to airports, airlines and cruises injecting so much wellness programming to the profusion of ever-more-creative wellness destinations, retreats and tours.”

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James said that for G Adventure’s soon-to-be program, the focus is around mindfulness, movement and nourishment.

“The slower-paced itineraries give travellers time to ground themselves on arrival and to explore their local surroundings, while the accommodation options provide a quiet and calming base outside the bustle of the city,” James said.

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These types of programs also focus on healthy activities throughout vacations, including local yoga, guided meditation or daily exercises or activities on site. And while a typical all-inclusive getaway could include endless pool snacks and all-you-can-drink alcohol, wellness tourism, James added, puts more thought into what travellers are eating and drinking.

“Offering healthy cuisine centred around fresh, local and seasonal produce with optional vegetarian and vegan options available, meals are designed to nourish both the body and the mind,” said James.

Buying into the trend

While taking a trip to meditate in a sanctuary in India or escaping for a long hike somewhere in B.C. or Alberta has always been considered a way to boost wellness, James said it’s trendier now because people have more access to information.

“As more consumers focus on their health, I think wellness has become trendy. People are now willing to pay more for healthy or organic products, and we’re seeing this in wellness tourism and travel in general as well.”

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There is also an assumption that wellness means finding ways to just relax, but James said it is much more.

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Wellness isn’t about relaxing,” he explained. “It’s an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence. This means that it’s less about doing things slowly and more about doing things with the intention to be healthier and more present. I think this mindset is appealing to more and more people and is less polarizing than it used to be.”

As the popularity of wellness tourism grows, companies and brands are also mindful of target audiences. Previous research has shown the yoga industry, for example, often caters to white women, leaving women of colour out of spaces of healing, Bustle reported. Some women of colour have even started their own wellness retreats specifically targeted to other women of colour, reported.

James said wellness packages and tours are often designed for customers who practice these lifestyles at home. He is hopeful the new program he is working on will attract all types of travellers.

“[These are the people] interested in the benefits of mindfulness, yoga and meditation. We believe our new wellness program will resonate more strongly with women than men, but we do think there will definitely be interest from men as well.”
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