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'Wellness Tourism' Growing Faster Than Tourism Alone

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Spa operators like Sundara Inn & Spa (pictured above) are riding the wellness tourism wave.

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Ever return home from a vacation feeling you need another vacation, just to relax? Well, more consumers are echoing these sentiments, which represents an opportunity for the spa industry as travel associated with enhancing one's well-being is on the rise.

Health-conscious travelers are not just seeking out properties that cater to their daily routines, [they're] also looking for ways to go deeper into their typical wellness regimen.

"Health-conscious travelers are not just seeking out properties that cater to their daily routines, [they're] also looking for ways to go deeper into their typical wellness regimen,"  Todd Shaw, director of the Spa at the Peaks at Telluride Ski Resort (Telluride, Colorado), told Skin Inc.

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"This trend has made us rethink and redesign our spa treatments by incorporating natural and holistic elements, along with maximizing the accommodations of our 42,000-square-foot facility," he explained. 

In fact, the resort developed specialized studios and extensive fitness and yoga programs so guests can continue dedicating time to their healthy lifestyles and feeling good without interruption.

"Our goal is to make time spent in Telluride and The Peaks Resort and Spa a complete wellness experience a time of healing and fulfillment, a true sabbatical of rest and relaxation, where you don’t need a vacation from a vacation," Shaw said. 

"We attract guests who commit to wellness in their lives in all its many forms." -Michel

Another spa operator, Heidi Michel, marketing director of Sundara Inn & Spa (Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin), said spa wellness tourism has been "the soul of Sundara's business" from the start. "And that was a bit of a revolutionary concept in the Midwest 15 years ago," she added. 

"We attract guests who commit to wellness in their lives in all its many forms [from] skin care treatments that replenish what the stresses of modern life take away [to] a chance to disconnect from the real world to recharge with our no electronics in common areas policy," Michel said. 

Also, her spa embarked on a $10 million expansion dedicated entirely to wellness, with a fitness studio, rooftop greenhouse, retreat space, salt treatment room, and additional miles of hiking trails to keep up with demand. 

The Lodge at Woodloch (Hawley, Pennsylvania) has found wellness has become much more of a lifestyle decision than a small niche subset. 

"Our guests are much more knowledgeable about their health and wellness and dedicate time, money and energy to maintaining a well lifestyle," said spa director Nancy Deaton. "Our occupancies and revenues have more than doubled from when we first opened showing the strong trend of more and more people seeking wellness tourism in their travel plans.

"The growth trajectory of the wellness industry appears unstoppable." -Johnston and Yeung

Although these are just a few examples, wellness-oriented spa resorts are continuing to evolve as a huge growth area for the industry as a whole. 

“The growth trajectory of the wellness industry appears unstoppable,” said Global Wellness Institute's senior researchers, Katherine Johnston and Ophelia Yeung.

And there's data to prove it. In fact, wellness has been driving the spa tourism industry, which is growing faster than global tourism alone. 

'Wellness Tourism' Growing Faster Than Tourism Alone

According to data from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the wellness tourism industry reached $563.2 billion in the most recent full-reported period, which was 2015. From 2013-2015, wellness tourism expenditures grew by 6.8% annually in the U.S., which is higher than the 3.4% increase in overall tourism expenditures (including foreign exchange rates). The following list shows a breakdown of wellness tourism trips and expenditures by region. 

Top 3 Wellness Tourism Expenditures by region (2015) in U.S. dollars*

#1 North America         $215.7 billion 

#2 Europe                    $193.4 billion 

#3 Asia Pacific              $111.2 billion

More Domestic Wellness Trips Boosting Local Economies 

Travelers made 691.0 million wellness trips in 2015, which is 104.4 million more than 2013 according to Global Wellness Institute. Most of the rise came from domestic wellness tourism, which rose 17% to 575 million trips in 2015 from 491.2 million in 2013. International/inbound wellness tourism rose nearly 22% to 116 million trips in 2015 from 95.3 million trips in 2013. 

The economic impact of wellness tourism attracts $532.2 billion in expenditures and 17.9 million jobs worldwide, according to GWI data. Accounting for the indirect impacts of wellness tourism spending (from goods and services by tourism sector businesses) and the induced impacts from spending by tourism sector employees, the economy-wide impacts of global wellness tourism are estimated at $1.6 trillion and 40.8 million jobs in 2015, GWI said. 

Top 3 Wellness Tourism Markets (2015)*

                               Number of Trips    Direct Employment     Expenditures

#1 U.S.                   161.2 million           1.87 million                     $202.2 billion

#2 Germany              58.5 million           1.11 million                       $60.2 billion 

#3 France                  30.6 million           0.32 million                       $30.2 billion 

U.S. Leads the Market in Wellness Tourism 

According to GWI, the United States wellness tourism market, the dominant national wellness industry, generated 36%, or $202.2 billion, of the annual $563.2 billion global market. This translates to three times more wellness tourism spending than the second largest market, Germany, at $60.2 billion. U.S. wellness trips jumped from 141.4 million in 2013 to 161.2 million in 2015, and revenues grew 5.8% each year, according to GWI. 

To put this in perspective, global spa facilities, as a whole, generate $77.6 billion annually. And the U.S. is twice as big a spa market as its next closest competitor, China. The following list ranks the top three spa markets in 2015. 

Top 3 Spa Markets (2015)*

                              Locations         Annual Revenues

#1 U.S.                  24,421               $18.7 billion

#2 China               12,595                $7 billion

#3 Germany          6,488                 $5.95 billion 

The Future: China is the Fastest-growing Market

Emerging market country, China, is the growth leader among the fastest-growing wellness tourism markets, based on adding over 18 million wellness trips, both inbound and domestic, during the period 2013-2015. On both an inbound/domestic basis, developed countries U.S. and Germany still held leading positions in wellness tourism trips, adding 12.6 million and 8.3 million trips, respectively. 

Top 3 Growth Countries (Based on Wellness Tourism Trips Added)* 

                                       Wellness Tourism Trips Added    Growth Rates 

#1 China                          18.1 million                                     26.6%

#2 U.S.                             12.6 million                                     4.1%

#3 Germany                       8.3 million                                     7.9%

Despite recent security concerns for a number of Middle East/North Africa nations, wellness tourism revenues grew 6% annually from 2013-2015 for this region, right on pace with the average global growth rate of 6.6%, based on GWI dats. The Middle East/North Africa region added $1 billion in wellness travel revenues and 1.5 million wellness trips across those two years.  

According to GWI, a host of forces, like lower oil prices, currency depreciation, and travel bans from and “perception” issues with the U.S., are poised to slow outbound wellness travel growth in the Middle East/North Africa. Meanwhile, economic slowdowns in key source countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia and China, and security concerns in places like Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia, are negatively impacting inbound travel, GWI added.

Still, for U.S. domestic spa operators, opportunities abound since enhancing one's well-being continues to be on the rise as tourists continue to seek a full wellness experience. 

"Our motto has always been been: 'Wellness is all we do,'” said Michel.

*GWI data

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