Wellness Travel Outstrips Global Tourism Growth
by Robin Amster

Wellness travel, which now represents a sizable chunk of global tourism revenues, is growing at nearly twice the rate of total worldwide tourism, according to a study released at the first Global Wellness Tourism Congress (GWTC).

The Global Wellness Tourism Economy study is the first to analyze the fast-emerging wellness tourism segment, said SRI International. SRI conducted the study in conjunction with the Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS) held Oct. 5 to 7 in New Dehli, India. The inaugural Global Wellness Tourism Congress was held during the Summit.

“Wellness tourism is poised to reshape tourism as we know it,” said Jean-Claude Baumgarten, former World Travel & Tourism Council president and CEO and keynote speaker at the Summit.

“So many 21st century forces are fueling it, including the rise of chronic diseases and the unprecedented stress of modern life.”

Fast growth—lucrative market
Wellness tourism now accounts for about 14%, or nearly $439 billion, of all domestic and international tourism expenditures, the study said.

It’s projected to grow by more than 9% a year through 2017. That’s nearly 50% faster than overall global tourism.

Wellness tourism is also a lucrative market.

Compared to the average international and domestic tourist, the international wellness tourist spends about 65% more per trip while the domestic wellness tourist spends about 150% more per trip, according to the study.

Opportunities for travel agents
 "The Global Wellness Tourism Economy Report is of special significance to travel professionals,” said Susie Ellis, chairman and CEO of the Global Spa and Wellness Summit.

“It reveals new directions in tourism, including the kinds of experiences tourists will seek and the countries where they will travel to find them."

Ophelia Yeung, the study’s author and co-director of SRI’s Center for Science, Technology & Economic Development, said the research reflects a major shift from vacations associated with excess—too much eating, drinking and too little sleep—to those focused on health and wellness.

“People are now choosing destinations that help them keep or get healthy while traveling,” Yeung said. “A smaller, and also growing, segment are also now taking trips with the specific, sole purpose of improving their personal well being,” she added.

Wellness tourism is one of many niches in the increasingly popular special interest market. Clients who take wellness trips are also likely to take part in other niche activities during their trip including culinary, adventure, cultural or eco-tourism pursuits, the study said.

That broadens the options agents can sell.

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