Wellness Travelers Seek Agent Guidance as Market Continues to Expand

Sponsored by Seabourn
by Kerry Tice

If there’s one thing changing the profile of today’s traveler, it’s their desire to be treated as individuals. Couple that with an ongoing pursuit of wellness options, and you’ve got consumers with enormous sales potential just waiting to have their needs met. 
As travel advisors, qualifying your clients is first and foremost in the sales process, which means that determining what wellness means to them is critical to finding the right product. Fortunately, wellness options have never been more prevalent, as more travelers seek to incorporate healthy living into their travel plans. 
A recent study by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) puts wellness tourism at a whopping $563 billion industry. The growth momentum of this travel segment is not slowing. In fact, since GWI first unveiled the size of global wellness three years ago, the market is as strong as ever. 
Some of the major findings of its most recent research released in January 2017 narrows in on three converging megatrends: 1) an emerging global middle class with rising disposable incomes for lifestyle spending, including travel; 2) an increasing consumer desire for all things related to wellness and a healthy lifestyle; and 3) a growing interest in experiential travel. 
A mounting demand for wellness travel and an overwhelming increase in innovations by businesses (inclusive of travel suppliers) to meet demand has propelled this market forward. In fact, from 2013-2015, wellness tourism expenditures grew by 6.8 percent annually in U.S. dollars, much higher than the 3.4 percent annual increase in overall tourism expenditures. 
Furthermore, the study found that travelers made 691 million wellness trips in 2015, which is 104.4 million more than in 2013. What’s more, wellness trips account for 6.5 percent of all tourism trips, but they represent 15.6 percent of total tourism expenditures. The translation for travel agents: Wellness travelers tend to spend much more per trip than non-wellness travelers. 
Here are some recent trends around wellness and tips on how to think outside-the-box to capture this market. 
Broaden your understanding of what wellness means
Spas and fitness centers are what used to define wellness programs, but that is history. As the wellness consumer has evolved, spas and fitness centers are certainly must-haves, but they are typically just a foray into a whole new level of wellness options that clients are seeking. 
Wellness travel now includes expanded dietary options, personal trainers, wellness assessments, and mindful living coaches and lecturers; but most of all, incorporating healthy habits into almost every aspect of a client’s itinerary. When putting that itinerary together, think active. 
Experiential travel is integral to wellness trend
Being one with nature and going beyond the traditional is fueling experiential travel. Today’s traveler is seeking authentic experiences that delve into the culture, history and local flavor of a destination. They want to enrich their minds as well as their bodies — and do it in a serene way that is memorable. 
Experiential travel is also unique to the individual, giving you, the agent, the task of determining whether your client would prefer a hike through an indigenous forest or to the crescent of an Asian temple, or better yet, perhaps a thermal bath in Iceland? Maybe both. It’s all about how you can help them uncouple from the day-to-day and make their experience extraordinary. 
Wellness options aren’t just resort-based
Gone are the days of finding a “wellness” resort in a remote location to detox at a spa. Cruising has become a huge contender in the wellness arena for its ability to offer the absolute best ocean views; a wide variety of culinary options that provide freedom of choice and cater to dietary needs; health and wellness lecturers; personal trainers, advanced fitness centers with yoga, Pilates, jogging tracks, and acupuncture; and most of all, shore excursions that combine wellness with scenic hiking, biking, kayaking and more. 
“Cruising is a wonderful way to experience our world and do it in a healthy way, easily,” said Marybeth Hillier, a travel advisor with over 30 years of experience who often recommends cruising to clients who are health-conscious. “Since wellness is important to me, I want to help my clients achieve their wellness goals in an exciting and creative way.” Wellness travel is more about focusing on the simple things that can provide not only physical, but psychological, benefits. Hillier asks, what could be more convenient and relaxing than a cruise? 
Health and wellness will travel
Be sure to ask your clients what they are looking for in your initial discovery conversations. Wellness can be the entire focus of their vacation or just a small part of it. And for some, the option of wellness might not even occur to them, unless you offer it up. Whatever their intent, remind them that traveling well has never been easier. “Our clients are living longer and want to lead healthy, active lives. They are doing all possible to stay fit so that they can travel longer,” notes Hillier.  
Seabourn has long been a leader in global wellness tourism, and continually looks for ways to provide and enhance experiences for guests who value healthy living, even when traveling. That's why we’ve partnered with Dr. Andrew Weil, widely considered one of the top gurus in integrative medicine, to create our Spa & Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil onboard Mindful Living program that integrates physical, social, environmental, and spiritual well-being techniques to form a holistic wellness experience. Our innovative program is the first of its kind at sea, enhancing an already impressive array of offerings in the state-of-the-art spa and fitness facilities on each Seabourn ship. To augment this program, we have developed a range of optional Mindful Living excursions in select ports of call, specially designed to further enhance our guests’ mind/body/spirit balance during their voyages, curated by our expert destination team and local tour partners as part of our optional shore excursion program. And for an in-depth wellness experience, guests can sail round-trip Piraeus (Athens) on our 14-day Origins of Wellness with Dr. Weil voyage on October 6, 2018. To learn more, visit Seabourn.com
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