Say Namaste: The Art of Wellness Travel

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Is it possible to travel to feel better? Absolutely, in fact wellness or medical travel is on the rise and it is a burgeoning industry. Wellness Tourism actually accounts for 1 in 7 tourism dollars spent. That’s huge.

A new study presented at the inaugural Global Wellness Tourism Congress (GWTC) found wellness tourism is a near half-trillion dollar market, representing 14 percent of total global tourism revenues ($3.2 trillion1) overall.

According to The Global Wellness Tourism Economy report, the category is projected to grow on average 9.9 percent annually over the next five years, nearly twice the rate of global tourism overall, reaching $678.5 billion by 2017, or 16 percent of total tourism revenues.

The study also noted over one-half of growth in wellness tourism through 2017 will come from the Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern/North African markets, and India will be number one globally over the next five years, clocking a 20 percent-plus growth through 2017. And wellness tourists are higher spenders, on average, spending 130 percent more than the average global tourist.

meditate“For decades, the very concept of a vacation has been associated with excess: too much eating, drinking and too little sleep — leaving too many travelers less healthy when they check out than when they checked in,” said Ophelia Yeung, lead author of the study and co-director, Center for Science, Technology & Economic Development at SRI. “This new research clearly reveals that more people are now choosing destinations that help them keep or get healthy while traveling, while a smaller (and also growing) segment are also now taking trips with the specific, sole purpose of improving their personal well-being.”

KEY FINDINGS

Percentage of Global Trips: While wellness tourism represents roughly one in seven total domestic and international tourism dollars (14 percent), it represents 6 percent of the number of international and domestic trips — or 524.4 million.

Powerful Impact on Jobs and Economies: Wellness tourism is directly responsible for $11.7 million global jobs, which delivers $1.3 trillion in global economic impact — or 1.8 percent of the world’s GDP in 2012.

A Strikingly High-Yield Tourist: Wellness tourists spend, on average, 130 percent more than the average global tourist. An international wellness tourist spends roughly 65 percent more per trip than the average international tourist; the domestic wellness tourist spends about 150 percent more than the average domestic tourist.

Europe and North America Dominate…For Now: While over 50 percent of the projected growth in wellness tourism through 2017 will come from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East/North Africa, the SRI study found that today’s typical wellness traveler is well-educated, well-off, middle-aged and hails from Western and industrialized nations. Europe and North America drive the outbound international wellness tourism segment, with five countries — the U.S., Germany, Japan, France and Austria — currently representing 63 percent of the global market. Additionally, the U.S., France, Austria, Germany and Switzerland drive the most inbound, international wellness tourism arrivals. Countries that attract the most domestic wellness tourism trips include: the U.S., Germany, Japan, China and France.

“Wellness tourism is poised to reshape tourism as we know it. So many 21st century forces are fueling it, including the rise of chronic diseases and the unprecedented stress of modern life,” noted Jean-Claude Baumgarten, GSWS keynote speaker and former president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council. “What people want to achieve during their ever diminished time off is undergoing a sea change, with millions more every year demanding destinations that deliver physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental health — along with enjoyment.”

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