Wellness tourism

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Kołobrzeg, Polish resort on the coast of the Baltic Sea

Wellness tourism is travel for the purpose of promoting health and well-being through physical, psychological, or spiritual activities.[1] While wellness tourism is often correlated with medical tourism because health interests motivate the traveler, wellness tourists are proactive in seeking to improve or maintain health and quality of life, often focusing on prevention, while medical tourists generally travel reactively to receive treatment for a diagnosed disease or condition.


Within the US $3.4 trillion spa and wellness economy, wellness tourism is estimated to total US$494 billion or 14.6 percent of all 2013 domestic and international tourism expenditures.[2] Driven by growth in Asia, the Middle East/North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and developing countries, wellness tourism is expected to grow 50 percent faster than the overall tourism industry over the next five years.[3][4] Market is expected to grow through 2014.[5][6]

Wellness tourists are generally high-yield tourists, spending, on average, 130 percent more than the average tourist.[7] In 2013, International wellness tourists spend approximately 59 percent more per trip than the average international tourist; domestic wellness tourists spend about 159 percent more than the average domestic tourist.[8] Domestic wellness tourism is significantly larger than its international equivalent, representing 84 percent of wellness travel and 68 percent of expenditures (or $299 billion). International wellness tourism represents 16 percent of wellness travel and 32 percent of expenditures ($139 billion market).[9]

The wellness tourism market includes primary and secondary wellness tourists. Primary wellness tourists travel entirely for wellness purposes while secondary wellness tourists engage in wellness-related activities as part of a trip. Secondary wellness tourists constitute the significant majority (87 percent) of total wellness tourism trips and expenditures (85 percent).[10]


Wellness travelers pursue diverse services, including physical fitness and sports; beauty treatments; healthy diet and weight management; relaxation and stress relief; meditation; yoga; and health-related education. Wellness travelers may seek procedures or treatments using conventional, alternative, complementary, herbal, or homeopathic medicine.

Hotels and hospitality[edit]

Almost 17 million (40 percent)[11] of US hotel guests seek to maintain a healthy lifestyle while traveling. Global hotel groups, including Intercontinental Hotels Group[12] (IHG), Kimpton Hotels,[13] MGM Grand Hotel,[14] Trump Wellness Hotels,[15] and Westin,[16] have developed and promoted programs to attract these health-conscious guests.[17] Programs include healthy menu options, relaxation programs, spa services, and fitness facilities and classes.[7] As of 2012, over 80 percent of US hotels and over 90 percent of upscale US hotels offered fitness facilities.[18] Internationally, 45 percent of hotel guests indicated that the existence of a hotel spa was an important factor in their booking decision.[19]

Hospitals and medical centers[edit]

Hospitals are a significant provider of destination wellness programs. Typical programs emphasize lifestyle improvement, prevention, or health screening. Hospital and hotel partnerships often support these programs.

Resorts and retreats[edit]

Wellness resorts and retreats offer short-term, residential programs to address specific health concerns, reduce stress, or support lifestyle improvement.[20][21]

Individual Practitioners[edit]

Making up a subset of the retreat and resort offerings, individual teachers, trainers or wellness-related practitioners will privately rent resort centers, small hotels or sections of larger hotels. These retreats are themed and designed for the specific participants.

Festivals & Conferences[edit]

High profile weekends in destination locations that draw industry leaders together to deliver cutting edge, eclectic, instructive, adventurous and otherwise nourishing, healthy weekends.

Cruise and spas[edit]

As health and wellness is becoming a growing reason for people to travel across the globe, cruise ships are increasingly gaining popularity. Spas on cruise ships can help make the voyage more relaxing and pleasurable. Numerous cruise ships are available today that provide spa and wellness treatments on board.[1]


Wellness tourism is now an identifiable niche market in at least 30 countries.[22] Twenty countries accounted for 85 percent of global wellness tourism expenditures in 2012. The top five countries alone (United States, Germany, Japan, France, Austria) account for more than half the market (59 percent of expenditures).[2]

North America[edit]

As of 2014, the US is the largest wellness tourism market, with $180.7 billion in annual, combined international and domestic expenditures. The US is the top destination for inbound international wellness tourism, with 7.1 million international, inbound trips. Europe and high-income Asian countries are primary sources of wellness tourists traveling to the US.[23]

Domestic tourism accounts for the majority (94 percent) of wellness trips in North America. Americans and Canadians receive—and take—few vacation days compared to workers in other countries making domestic, weekend trips the most popular wellness travel option.[24]


Europe is the second largest wellness tourism market, with $158.4 billion in annual, combined international and domestic expenditures; the region ranks highest in number of wellness trips with 216.2 million, compared to North America's 171.7 in 2013.[2] Europeans have long believed in health benefits derived from mineral baths, saunas, thalassotherapy, and other natural and water-based treatments. Thermal resorts and hotels in Turkey and Hungary cater to wellness tourists, many of whom are subsidized by host countries such as Norway and Denmark seeking to mitigate costs of medical procedures for patients with chronic conditions requiring expensive surgeries.[25]


The Asia-Pacific region ranks as the third largest with $6.4 billion in annual, combined international and domestic expenditures.[2] Wellness traditions date back thousands of years in this region, and some of those wellness practices (e.g., Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), yoga, hilot, Thai massage) incorporate preventive, curative, and therapeutic aspects that lie in the cross-over area between wellness and medical tourism.

Latin America-Caribbean[edit]

Latin America-Caribbean is the fourth largest region for wellness tourism in terms of number of trips and expenditures. Domestic tourism accounts for about 71 percent of wellness tourism trips, and 54 percent of wellness tourism expenditures.

Middle East and Africa[edit]

The Middle East and Africa are currently the smallest regions for wellness tourism, where international tourists account for the majority of wellness trips and wellness expenditures. The Middle East has a long tradition of bathing associated with Turkish baths, and some older facilities are being modernized to serve spa-bound tourists. Tourism in general is on the rise in the region, and governments and private developers have been investing heavily in facilities and amenities, especially those oriented to the wealthy traveler.

In Africa, wellness tourism is concentrated in a few regions and is dominated by international tourists. South Africa reports significant domestic wellness tourism. Tunisia and Morocco have a well-developed resort spa sector primarily serving leisure vacationers from Europe.


Wellness tourism advocates suggest that vacations improve physical well-being, happiness, and productivity, citing that health-oriented trips give travelers a fresh perspective and positively affect creativity, resilience, problem solving, and capacity for coping with stress.[26][27] Yet the health benefits of wellness vacations expected and reported by vacationers have proved difficult to quantify.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dimon, Anne (24 October 2013). "Wellness Travel: 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond". Travelmarketreport.com. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Global Spa & Wellness Economy Monitor" (PDF). Global Spa & Wellness Summit. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  3. ^ Amster, Robin. "Wellness Travel Outstrips Global Tourism Growth". Travel Market Report. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  4. ^ "Wellness tourism is a billion dollar market, ~ Tuesday". 4Hoteliers. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  5. ^ "Wellness Tourism Trends for 2014". Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  6. ^ "Global Spa Industry Now Valued at $94 Billion;Thermal/Mineral Springs Market at $50 Billion;Wellness Tourism Rises to $494 Billion". Global Spa & Wellness Summit. 18 September 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Brands focus on health and wellness in design". Hotelnewsnow.com. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  8. ^ "Global Spa, wellness industry estimated at $3.4trillion". Absolute World. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  9. ^ Gould, Lark. "New study reveals wellness tourism a $439 billion market, representing 1 in 7 tourism dollars". Travel Daily News - Asia-Pacific. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  10. ^ "Wellness tourism is a $439 Billion Market". IMTJ. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
  11. ^ "In Even Hotels, IHG indulges the health-minded traveler". Hotel Management. 26 March 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  12. ^ De Lollis, Barbara (28 February 2012). "IHG launches health and fitness-oriented hotel brand - USATODAY.com". Travel.usatoday.com. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  13. ^ "Kimpton Offers First Ever In-Room Yoga Program Combining Travel and Tranquility". Hotelnewsresource.com. 16 September 2003. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  14. ^ Rob Lovitt (29 October 2012). "MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to stay well, feel better". TODAY.com. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  15. ^ "Trump Hotel Collection in wellness focus | News". Breaking Travel News. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  16. ^ Helliker, Kevin (14 December 2010). "Westin Launches New Program to Lend Guests Fitness Gear - WSJ.com". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  17. ^ Reaney, Patricia (17 January 2013). "Healthy hotels, rise in ancient therapies expected in 2013". Reuters. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  19. ^ "Hilton Hotels & Resorts Unveils Report on Global Spa Trends | Hilton Hotels & Resorts Global Media Center". Hiltonglobalmediacenter.com. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  20. ^ Fitzsimmons, Annie (5 April 2012). "Healthy Travel: Searching for Wellness on the Road". Forbes. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  21. ^ Rosenbrock, Katie (27 November 2013). "World's best wellness resorts". Usatoday.com. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  22. ^ "Wellness and Wellness Tourism: More Than a Lifestyle Choice". Patients Beyond Borders. 17 August 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  23. ^ "Unhealthy Travel Habits Give Way to Growing Global Wellness Tourism Sector, Reports Global Spa & Wellness Summit". SRI International. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  24. ^ "America is the only rich country that doesn't guarantee paid vacation or holidays". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  25. ^ "International Profiles of Health Care Systems, 2012" (PDF). Commonwealthfund.org. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  26. ^ Morgan, Leslie. "The Case for Vacation: Why Science Says Breaks Are Good for Productivity - Derek Thompson". The Atlantic. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  27. ^ Schwartz, Tony (9 February 2013). "Relax : You'll be more healthy". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  28. ^ "No-Vacation Nation Revisited | Reports". Cepr.net. Retrieved 1 December 2013.

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