Wellness tourism, a booming market

Wellness tourism, a booming market

Wellness tourism is no longer limited to spas and hotels. “It has evolved and grown to encompass all experiences that benefit the mental and physical health of travellers,” says Paul Joseph, founder of Health and Fitness Travel, a tour operator specializing in wellness stays. “Gone are the days of well-being holidays, which consisted of flying and lounging on a deckchair. Now we can recommend hand-picked retreats to our clients which include a bespoke wellness programme, focusing on nutrition, physical activity, individual coaching or holistic healing therapies. We have seen a significant uptick in bookings after the pandemic, despite the cost of living crisis. »

This is what Expedia dubs the “non-normal” period of wellness tourism. “We’re seeing renewed interest in wellness vacations and an increase in demand for nature destinations other than the coast and mountains,” said Jon Gieselman, president of Expedia Brands. “This is not a new normal, as travelers are interested in unexpected trends, but rather a non-normal.”

The company observed a 30% increase in demand for wellness holidays between 2021 and 2022 and discovered that almost half (46%) of international tourists were more open to the idea of ​​going on a well-being holiday. -be than before. And the more offbeat they are, the better. Expedia’s Travel Trends Report reveals that activities as varied as sylvotherapy, cooking courses, chakra balancing sessions, yoga classes with puppies and laughter therapy were good more popular than some typical spa offerings.

But what does the term “wellness” really mean today? According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), an American non-profit organization that is part of the Global Wellness Summit (which has been carrying out research and commercial activities in the whole sector since 2007), this one has several definitions. It can be combined with sports holidays and adventure travel focused on improving feelings of well-being and life balance, as well as spiritual retreats and physical therapies. The market is booming: according to the GWI, the well-being economy should grow by an average of 9.9% per year between 2023 and 2025 (it will then generate 7 trillion dollars (6.35 trillion euros) of recipes).

Founded in 2018 with the aim of overseeing the growing sector of wellness tourism, the American non-profit organization Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) defines it as allowing the traveler “to maintain or adopt a of healthy living, or to enhance it, and to maintain or increase an individual’s sense of well-being”.

“What constitutes a wellness vacation is subjective,” says Justin Francis, co-founder and CEO of Responsible Travel, an ethical travel agency. “Painting trips in the Scottish Highlands or wild camping are just as much about wellness as a vegan Pilates retreat. Well-being stays are simply an opportunity to recharge your batteries, physically and mentally”.

The agency has expanded its offer of many nature destinations since the pandemic, in response to the increase in demand for this type of vacation. For example, activities like river kayaking have grown in popularity and this interest in vacations that allow guests to focus on their physical well-being has increased by nearly 100% over the past five years. “We are all much more aware of the benefits of turning off our phones and being outside,” adds Justin Francis.

Our travel habits began to change long before the pandemic. In a 2021 report by McKinsey, 79% of respondents said wellbeing was important and 42% said it was a top priority, but consumers in every market surveyed had been giving it two to three years already. a larger place (from 27% to 65%). Over the past decade, yoga mats have become the norm in trendy hotels and gym access has become a must-have, while spa resorts are experiencing massive expansion.

Sports stays are also popular, thanks to their tangible benefits and measurable results (such as the number of kilometers covered in hiking). This boom in “endorphin tourism” attracts travelers looking to challenge themselves in nature (think desert marathons or mountain trails). In Europe, the Alps have somehow become the playground of outdoor well-being. A report published in 2020 by France Montagnes, an association promoting tourism in the French Alps, reported that for 70% of travelers, the mountain was synonymous with well-being.

“For several years, and more particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic, the mountains have seduced tourists in search of escape, nature and well-being, alongside more sporting activities”, explains Jean-Luc Boch, President of the association. In addition to the essential sports practices, there are also other more unusual ones, centered on communion with nature. Travelers can learn how to herd goats, take part in a meditative swim in the waterfalls, pick medicinal plants or even run marathons mindfully.

Cycling holidays are also booming. According to the European Parliament, the number of recreational cyclists has increased by 30% to 60% in the UK and Europe between 2019 and 2022. Surfing is also seeing its popularity grow. The International Surfing Association, which counted around 35 million surfers worldwide, estimated that figure would hit the 50 million mark by 2020 (exact figures have yet to be released). Be that as it may, the craze for this discipline should continue, particularly in the United Kingdom, where the NHS (the British public health system) plans to set up “green prescriptions”, which recommend the practice of surfing as a treatment for people with mental and physical problems.

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