Welcome to the second part of our blog series on upcoming trends in tourism! Last week, Katalin discussed responsible tourism, a form of travel that emphasizes meaningful impact on the environment, local culture, and more. This week, I’ll be discussing wellness tourism.

Wellness tourism, also called health tourism, is a type of travel that seeks to improve a person’s health and wellbeing. Although it is sometimes conflated with medical tourism, where a person travels in order to see a specific doctor or get a procedure done, wellness tourism typically focuses on holistic methods of improving one’s health. That’s not to say that wellness tourism doesn’t occasionally overlap with medical tourism — some spas offer cosmetic treatments such as Botox injections, for example — but the two terms should not be used interchangeably.

The Growth of Wellness Tourism

According to the Global Wellness Institute’s 2018 report, wellness tourism is now growing twice as fast as regular tourism, making it a lucrative new market. In fact, TripAdvisor polled its Facebook community in June of last year and found that approximately 25% of its followers are interested in taking a wellness trip in the next 12 months.

The GWI report divides wellness tourists into two categories: primary wellness travelers are those “who are motivated by wellness to take a trip or choose their destination based on its wellness offerings”, while secondary wellness travelers “seek to maintain wellness or engage in wellness activities during any kind of travel”. Secondary wellness travelers comprise the bulk of wellness tourism spending, making up approximately 86% according to the GWI report.

Besides the fact that wellness tourism is growing at such a rapid rate, it is also described by the Global Wellness Institute as “high-yield tourism”, meaning that travelers partaking in wellness tourism spend on average much more than the typical tourist. This number isn’t inconsequential, either: according to the report, international wellness tourists spend about 53% more and domestic wellness tourists spend a whopping 178% more than the average tourist.

What this boils down to is that if you have an opportunity to incorporate wellness into your business, then you should. Not only is it a growing market featuring a high volume of spending, but with two types of wellness travelers, it’s even easier for you to be a part of the trend. You don’t need to do a complete overhaul of your business to take advantage of it; just add a few of the wellness offerings that tourists are looking for!

What Wellness Tourists Are Seeking

Attracting secondary, rather than primary, wellness tourists is probably a more feasible feat for you since you can incorporate wellness options into your existing business. A number of businesses have already taken advantage of this by adding health and wellness options to their existing infrastructure. For example, the hotel chain Westin has begun adding workout equipment, including Peloton bikes, to their “‘workout’ guest rooms”. American Airlines has partnered with the Calm app, which features guided meditation, and has also incorporated some of their exercises into its library of entertainment options. A few companies have also explored wellness from a nutrition standpoint, like Singapore Airlines and its recently developed “Deliciously Wholesome” menu.

Here are just a few ideas for how you can get ahead of the trend in your business:

  • Switch to healthier food options. If you provide food on any of your tours, look into offering more nutritious options or giving your customers the option to dine at a healthier restaurant. If you specialize in accommodation, consider providing your guest with a list of healthy dining options in the area, similarly to what the EVEN Hotel brand does.
  • Incorporate guided meditation into your tours. Does your tour require a long car or bus trip somewhere? Consider trading the radio for a gentle white noise soundtrack, giving your customers an opportunity to relax. For small groups, you can also offer riders a guided meditation session courtesy of apps like Calm or Headspace (some are free to download, but full access requires a subscription). Just make sure to ask before playing anything different over the speakers!
  • Offer more opportunities to sweat. If you specialize in accommodation, consider adding basic workout equipment to your rooms, such as dumbbells or yoga mats. If you’re offering a multi-day tour, try to find opportunities for clients to get a workout in by showing them walking/running paths or noting which hikes in an area would be suitable for those wanting to feel the burn.
What’s in a Name?

It’s easy to attach the word “wellness” to the name of your tour without changing anything about it. After all, its meaning is somewhat ambiguous and can apply to any number of things related to health. However, taking advantage of the new trend involves more than simply adding “wellness” to your title and calling it a day. After looking through a number of negative TripAdvisor reviews, I’ve determined that the word brings with it certain customer expectations, ones that may negatively impact your business if not directly addressed. To avoid that, here are some tips to keep in mind if you are going to advertise yourself as a wellness-related enterprise:

  • Make your rules clear. Your quest to make your operation more wellness-friendly may require you to implement new rules, such as restricting small children or requiring silence in certain areas of the tour. If this happens, be upfront about it, both on your website and in the booking confirmation. And, if possible, let your clients make their own decisions. While you may want to offer healthier meal options, you shouldn’t force them on your customers.
  • Specify exactly how wellness is incorporated into the tour. What kind of activities or aspects of your tour qualify it as wellness? For example, will your food abide by a certain standard (i.e. vegan/gluten-free/etc.)? Make sure this information is clearly communicated. You want to minimize the possibility that your customer expects one thing and ends up disappointed.
  • Keep your staff happy. When guests seek out wellness-related opportunities, they don’t want their experience to be marred by grumpy staff. It’s hard to relax and unwind when you’re irritated about the service you’ve been given! Keep your workers happy and keep an eye out for their wellness as well. It’ll do wonders for the whole experience.
  • Abide by the three C’s: calm, clean, and comfortable. Again, it’s hard to worry about unwinding when you’re feeling rushed, dirty, or cramped. Try to minimize potential discomforts and apologize profusely if they’re unavoidable.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, have fun! Wellness doesn’t have to mean sterile. Ultimately, your clients will choose your tour because they want to enjoy themselves — and be a little healthier while they do it.

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