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New study reveals strong ongoing growth in wellness tourism

New study reveals strong ongoing growth in wellness tourism
November 14, 2018

A new report from the Global Wellness Institute shows that wellness tourism grew from a US$563 billion market in 2015 to be worth US$639 billion in 2017, or 6.5% annually - more than twice as fast as tourism overall (3.2%).

With the market forecast to grow even faster through 2022 (7.5% yearly) to reach US$919 billion, North America and Europe are the largest segments of the market, while the Asia-Pacific is growth leader with wellness trips growing 33% in the last two years.

China and India lead this growth, adding roughly 22 million and 17 million wellness trips respectively from 2015-2017.

Since the non-profit Global Wellness Institute (GWI) released the first edition of the ‘Global Wellness Tourism Economy’ report in 2013, the concept of wellness tourism has gained increasing recognition.

Defined as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing”, Katherine Johnston and Ophelia Yeung, Senior Researchers for the new 100-page new edition, explain “wellness tourism burst into the consumer consciousness just a very few years ago, and it’s hard to grasp the speed of its growth and evolution.

“Wellness, hospitality and travel are now converging in unprecedented ways, from the ‘healthy hotel’ concept going utterly mainstream to airports, airlines, and cruises injecting so much wellness programming, to the profusion of ever-more-creative wellness destinations, retreats and tours.

“The wellness concept is transforming almost every aspect of the travel industry - and wellness tourism will only grow faster in years ahead, as it lies at the powerful intersection of two massive, booming industries: the US$2.6 trillion tourism industry and the US$4.2 trillion wellness market.”

Key findings from the 2018 report

Global Growth
World travellers made 830 million wellness trips in 2017, 139 million more than in 2015, representing 17% of all tourism revenues (or one in six ‘dollars spent’). Developing markets lead the growth story: Asia-Pacific, Latin America-Caribbean, Middle East-North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa represented only 40% of wellness trips in 2017, but accounted for 57% of the increase in trips since 2015.

Top National Markets
Wellness tourism is heavily concentrated in several countries across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The top five nations (US, Germany, China, France and Japan) represent 59% of the global market, and the US alone drives over one-third of world revenues. Since 2013, both China and India have shot up in the rankings: China jumping from 11th to 3rd today; India hopping from 16th to 7th. Malaysia has entered the top 20 for the first time.

Future Growth
Wellness tourism is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 7.5% through 2022, considerably faster than the 6.4% growth estimated for overall tourism. By 2022, spending will hit US$919 billion, with 1.2 billion wellness trips taken annually. Watch emerging markets: over half of the expenditure growth (and three-quarters of the wellness trips growth) through 2022 will take place in Asia-Pacific, Latin America-Caribbean, Middle East-North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Top Recent Growth Nations
Wellness tourism keeps growing steadily across the leading developed markets, like the US and major European countries. But China and India have seen amazing recent gains, adding roughly 22 and 17 million wellness trips respectively from 2015-2017. For the top 25 growth nations, the pure annual percentage growth leaders from 2015-2017 are: 1) Slovakia 36.9% 2) Philippines 31.1% 3) Chile 29.3% 4) Malaysia 28.6% and 5) Vietnam 22.8%.

High-Spending Travellers
Wellness travellers are very high-spending, high-yield tourists. In 2017, international wellness tourists on average spent US$1,528 per trip, 53% more than the typical international tourist. The premium for domestic wellness tourists is even higher: at US$609 per trip, they spend 178% more than your average domestic tourist.

Secondary Wellness Spend
The GWI identifies two types of wellness travellers. The ‘primary’” variety is a traveller whose trip/destination choice is primarily motivated by wellness. The ‘secondary’ is a traveller who participates in wellness experiences on any leisure or business trip. While there’s a misconception that wellness travellers are a small, elite, rich group who visit destination spas or meditation retreats, it’s actually the more mainstream secondary breed that comprises the dramatic bulk of the market: 89% of wellness trips and 86% of expenditures.

More Countries Promoting Wellness Assets’
The number of countries actively marketing their wellness offerings at the national level has jumped from 65 in 2013 to over 100 in 2018.

What’s crucial is that destinations are now developing far more authentic, place-based wellness tourism products and brands - whether pioneers like Kerala, India which branded itself the ‘Land of Ayurveda’ over two decades ago or Costa Rica’s new ‘Wellness Pura Vida’ campaign.

The 100-page new edition of the ‘Global Wellness Tourism Economy’ report is packed with more regional and national data and trends analysis than ever before, including, for the first time, the spending premiums for wellness travellers (both inbound and domestic) for dozens of countries and which national tourism boards worldwide are actively promoting wellness tourism.

Related Articles

29th January 2017 - Significant growth in international wellness tourism

20th October 2016 - Mornington Peninsula hot springs to be exploited for wellness tourism

11th April 2016 - Wellness tourism on the rise

29th October 2013 - Wellness tourism and spa sectors urged to unite

4th August 2013 - Global Spa & Wellness Summit expands with new Global Wellness Tourism Congress

19th August 2010 - Tapping Into Health and Wellness Tourism

16th September 2008 - ATEC acts on wellness tourism


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