As “safety” and “health” are getting more and more attention, especially since the first outbreak of coronavirus, wellness tourism is also gaining more attention from travelers, even from those who have never heard of wellness travel. This shows the potentials and prospect of wellness tourism booming in the coming years.
What is wellness travel?
According to the Wellness Tourism Association, wellness travel is the trip in which travelers initiate, maintain or enhance a healthy lifestyle, support or increase their awareness of wellbeing. “Wellness” here is understood as both physical and mental, so wellness travel is distinctive from medical tourism.
Medical tourism, according to the Global Wellness Institute, trips in which a traveler receives medical treatment for a diagnosed disease, ailment or condition in order to seek health improvement. Activities in medical tourism are reactive to illnesses, medically necessary, invasive and/or overseen by a doctor while activities in wellness travel are proactive and voluntary, noninvasive and nonmedical in nature.
There are two types of wellness travelers: those whose trip or destination choice is primarily motivated by wellness, and those who seek to maintain wellness while traveling or who participates in wellness experiences during their leisure or business trip.
The wellness travel market pre- and post-Covid
As of 2019, the largest share of global wellness tourism is North America with 282.63 billion USD in revenue, followed by Europe and Asia – Pacific Ocean (APAC). Europe is the destination of most of wellness tours from travelers around the world. However, as the US and Canada see a strong increase in average spending per domestic travel, the North American region has thus gradually captured a larger market share. Although it is currently ranked third, the APAC region has outperformed thanks to the increase in the population and income of the middle class in countries such as China, India and Japan.
The global wellness tourism market was valued at 728.17 billion USD in 2019 and is expected to reach a value of 1.29 trillion USD by 2027, according to a report by Market Insight Solutions on wellness travel. According to the analysis, this market will have a compound annual growth rate of 7.4% over the next 7 years.
Although Covid-19 slowed down the wellness travel industry as the overall international tourism market suffered a decline of 60% in 2020, the market is expected to return to spike in growth in the period 2021-2022. A report by the Global Wellness Institute shows that wellness tourism is expected to grow by 7.5% by 2022, outperforming the average annual growth of the entire global tourism industry (6.4%).
Opportunity for the Asia-Pacific region
Each destination has its own unique values which are attached to the local culture and natural resources to offer to wellness travelers. For some, a full body massage, exercise classes or a smoothie are enough to keep their satisfaction for a wellness trip. However, to those who are more discerning and sophisticated wellness travelers, especially the Millennial generation, what the destination brings to help it stand out from other destinations are more likely their concerns and interests. These unique and authentic experiences can be built upon indigenous healing practices, ancient/spiritual traditional therapies, native plants and forests, special muds, minerals and waters, etc.
As written above, the Asia-Pacific region has captured a larger share of the wellness tourism market in recent years, reflecting an increasing number of visitors to enjoy the eastern wellness experiences. According to the Global Wellness Institute, oriental wellness experiences like hot springs, saunas, meditation, yoga and ayurveda, etc are what travelers seek when they travel to the region. If destinations in Asia-Pacific know how to embrace the new trends associated with wellness factors such as wellness staycation, immunity booster retreat. , remote-work holidays, self-care trips or social distance wellness trips combined with the unique local values, wellness travel will gain more attention from domestic travelers, especially when the domestic tourism market is still a key player before borders reopening.