Emerging Wellness Travel Trends For 2017 And Beyond

by Anne Dimon

Photo: Dingzeyu Li

As an editor and journalist covering the development and growth of wellness travel since 2004, I’ve witness a number of trends—some of which have developed into forces that now define the sector. One example is the widespread growth of incorporating active options and fitness adventures into travel packages and programs at all levels and across all sectors of the industry, from hotels to cruises and land tours.  

The newest trend poised to become a global development is that of the emerging “wellness destination.” I’m not referring to resorts or retreats that use the term loosely to define themselves, but rather destination marketing entities that are launching strategic initiatives to develop and promote themselves to the growing market of wellness-minded travelers.  

DMCs are dipping their toes into the therapeutic waters of Wellness Tourism with initiatives that go beyond simply listing spa and wellness activities and attractions on their websites.

“We’ve definitely seen a rise in demand for guidance by destinations—not just individual brands or properties—interested in better positioning their assets to attract today’s growing base of health-minded consumers,” said Mia Kyricos, president of Kyricos & Associates, LLC., a York, ME-based boutique advisory firm that strategically guides wellness-driven hospitality, tourism and lifestyle companies.

Destination expert Roger Brooks, president of Peoria, AZ-based Roger Brooks International, has worked with some 1,500 communities around the world, and says “health and wellness is now one of the top four brands that destinations are pursuing.”

Here are just a few examples:

Santa Barbara is officially moving toward projecting a wellness image. Jennifer Walker, Visit Santa Barbara’s vice president of marketing and strategy, says one of the four pillars of its new advertising campaign is Wellness. “With Santa Barbara’s unmatched diversity of experiences, and roots well-grounded in health and wellness, it made sense that this was one of our key areas of focus.”

The Secretary of Tourism for the Mexican State of Guanajuato established a Wellness Tourism Association earlier this year, and the city of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, is simultaneously working to develop a strategic initiative to make wellness an important part of its tourism program. For starters, 2017 will see the launch of a San Miguel Wellness Week focusing on the region’s thermal waters plus celebrating both Global Wellness Day and International Yoga Day.

While it has not as yet been officially announced, The Costa Rica Tourism Board will focus its 2017 PR campaign on promoting the concept of its signature Pura Vida Lifestyle, guided by the core values of community, health and wellness. The strategy, says Minister of Tourism Mauricio Ventura, “is to further position the country as a leading destination for travelers looking to detoxify and reenergize both mind and body.”  Melissa Tencio, the tourism board’s new wellness project manager, says the country is also working on a national strategy for this segment and should have something specific to announce in 2017.   

The Aruba Tourism Authority launched Aloe Wellness Month earlier this year, and the event is once again on the books for 2017. Discover The Palm Beaches (the official tourism marketing corporation for Palm Beach County, FL) has designated October as its first Spa & Wellness Month, and the Saint Lucia Tourist Board has declared November as the inaugural Adventure & Wellness Month.

These intiatives are undeniably just the beginning of what we can expect to see as the world continues along the path that’s been called a “paradigm shift” in the way we travel. As the trend develops, what regions of the world will emerge as the perceived “wellness destinations” of the future?  Something to think about.

Anne Dimon is Travel Market Report’s wellness travel columnist and the founder/editor www.traveltowellness.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnneDimon. 

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