Wellness tourism is one of the fastest growing forms of international and domestic tourism, defined as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing”.
This trend is not expected to change in the coming years , instead it keeps growing and the hospitality industry can leverage from that to boost profits.
Studies have shown that going on trips has many benefits: increase work productivity, improve health by enhancing sleep and decrease the incident of heart disease among others.
These benefits can be enhanced significantly when the principle motivation of travelling is to improve your mental and physical health. As people are becoming more observant to their own health, particularly the younger generation, they are looking to extend their wellness routines into their vacations.
Who are the wellness travellers and what they are looking for?
There is a common misconception that wellness travelers are an elite, small and affluent group of tourists who visit health resorts, wellness retreats and destinations spas. The truth is that they comprise a much broader group of consumers with different motivations and interests.
The Global Wellness Institute identifies two types of wellness travelers:
- Primary wellness traveler: A traveler whose trip or destination choice is primarily motivated by wellness.
- Secondary wellness traveler: A traveler who seeks to maintain wellness while traveling or who participates in wellness experiences while taking any type of trip for leisure or business.
Primary and secondary wellness travel can be done by the same person on different trips, meaning that sometimes they can travel with their primary focus being wellbeing and health, and other times they complement their touristic activities with wellness related ones.
Hospitality industry has to broaden the understanding of what wellness means. Spas and fitness centers at hotels are no longer enough. As the wellness traveler has evolved, these services are certainly must-haves, but this is the minimum they are seeking.
The spectrum is extremely wide and we observe a constant proliferation of services and products. If hotels want to be competitive and differentiate from their competitors, they should pay close attention to offer a wide variety of wellness options in and out of their premises.
Wellness travelers are looking for a variety of dietary options paying special attention to organic food, personal trainers, health retreats, mindful living coaches and lecturers, specific fitness or body-mind-spirit regimes, active-ageing or longevity programmes, personal growth, etc. They want to incorporate healthy habits into almost every aspect of their travel, so anticipating their healthy needs and requirements would be paramount if you want to gain their loyalty.
There is significant potential in targeting the growth segments that have been identified in this type of tourism, namely men, singles, families and youth (Gen Y and Millenials). Men have different needs and expectations from women, single people may feel uncomfortable surrounded by families and need tailor-made programmmes whereas today’s young travellers are focused on their mental health and reducing global plastic consumption. Hotel brands must identify each type of wellness customer and target specific and personalized marketing actions towards them.
This is high-yield tourism
Wellness travellers are said to be willing to spend 130% more than regular tourists for healthier hotel stays and wellness products and services.
Thirty-seven percent of travelers with a household income of at least $125,000 that are motivated to pursue wellness programs/lifestyle on vacation believe it’s worth paying more for the best quality in accommodations. In numbers, that’s 2.5 million traveling households taking 11.7 million vacations, spending $20.5 billion on leisure travel in the last 12 months. Good to know: While the average age of a wellness traveler is 47, one-third are Millennials, one-third are Xers, and the remaining one-third comprises Boomers and Matures. (Katie Briscoe, executive vice president, client services at MMGY Global)
Price is not the barrier for luxury wellness travelers; instead, they are seeking a 360-degree personalized service. If you can provide value and are able todifferentiate your property from others in the wellness service you offer, you will attract a high-end niche that is constantly growing.
Wellness travel trends
Wellness tourism creates opportunities not only for hotels but for tourism businesses to infuse elements of health and wellness into their offerings, to capture these high end travellers’ spending.
It is very interesting to check out a list of wellness travel trends that have been compiled by Health and Fitness Travel, a company that specializes in wellness-based vacations:
This is a sort of anti-honeymoon where the tourist is looking to heal from a broken relationship and relax following a period of poor mental health, anxiety and depression.
Designed for couples looking to boost their chances of getting pregnant
to alleviate the symptoms of menopause through alternative therapies
Sugar detox holiday and other preventative wellness retreats
Many wellness travellers look for these kind of retreats where they are taught how to avoid and cut down sugar, cigarettes, alcohol, junk food etc
As women occupy demanding professional positions that they have to balance with family and personal duties, there is a growing tendency in “solo trips” by women who leave their husband and kids behind to take care of themselves and recover from the stress of everyday life.
Other trends they listed are: nature immersion getaways, active lifestyle retreats, sleep performance trips, silence retreats…
Transformative wellness travel and culture immersion
wellness travellers want to go beyond the traditional wellness trip. They not only want to enrich their minds and bodies but look for unique wellness experiences “in touch” with local communities and culture. The ultimate value they are seeking is personal fulfillment, they want to experience a transformative travel that allows them to make meaningful and lasting changes in their lives.
There are three key pillars of transformational experiences:
- Shift from ego to self-actualisation through theatre activities, gaming, role-playing….that fire up emotions and lead to personal transformation
- Immersive storytelling casting the traveler in an immersive story-based wellness journey
- From passive experience to active journey
Out of the hotel wellness experiences
hotels and resorts have started to offer more than a fitness center and a spa because they know this type of tourist requests wellness experiences outside the hotel premises as well. They partner with wellness professionals to provide their customers with personalized wellness itineraries and experiences.
Diverse tours and activities
Wellness travellers have many options to choose from when looking for tours and activities that enhance their health and mindfulness. According to 2018 statistics from Booking.com, 56% of travelers say they want walking or hiking trips. They also found that travelers are interested in ”visiting a spa or receiving beauty treatments (33%), cycling (24%), water sport activities (22%), taking a full body detox holiday (17%), going on a yoga retreat (16%), running (16%) and undertaking meditation/mindfulness (15%).”
Healthy food, sustainable practices
Wellness tourism is highly beneficial for sustainability and community wellness since these type of travellers are focused not only on their wellbeing but also on their impact of the well-being of communities around them. That is why when travelling they choose organic, local food, what today is known as the “farm-to-table” concept. Consumers do not mind paying premium to meet these values.
Extreme wellness travel experiences
The pursuit of wellness has never been more extreme. Pushing a body to the extreme can result in a myriad of wellness benefits, both physical and mental.
Whether it is training like an elite athlete, exposing your body to extreme temperatures or hiking eitht hours on a glacier, “ people are seeking transformative breaks that mentally and physicaly challenge them, releasing them from their daily grind”(Tom Marchant. Co-founder of Black Tomato)
Many wellness trips include digital detox logging- off from the world
Architectural desing wellness
another trend in the luxury wellness travel industry is wellness architecture meaning the design of beautiful, comfortable, functional and sustainable spaces with materials addressing both physical and mental wellness.
These are some wellness travel trends that we have seen lately, but hoteliers and tourism companies should do their market research on new wellness travel requirements that wellness travellers are demanding to anticipate their needs and adapt their marketing strategies, products and services.
How luxury hotels should invest in wellness
Due to the lucrative nature of the wellness getaway and the fact that wellness travelkkers are willing to spend more on their trips, it is extremely beneficial to develop wellness hotel programs and capitalize on wellness amenities. Wellness features not only benefit the guest but the property, as they increase loyalty and positive reviews. There are already examples of hotel brands that are already taking advantage of this trend and you can also do it in simple and inexpensive ways.
Healthy and organic food
Hotels should look at supporting local farmers and implementing sustainable practices. There are even hotels in North America that are joining the farm-to-table movement with their own produce-rich gardens and farms. Some of them produce their own eggs, vegetables, herbs and guests are encouraged to explore the farm and also participate in healthy food workshops. The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa in Colorado began to host a colony of bees on their rooftop and today they use their sweet nectar in beauty products and of course guests can also sample this honey via the hotel’s afternoon tea.
Apart from the farm or hotel gardens, hotels should consider adding a selected number of healthy options to their minibars and on their menus (vegan, gluten free or low calorie)
Hoteliers have plenty of options to produce their own food and to provide a fantastic experience for their customers at the same time.
Wellness – themed rooms
Many hotels are beginning to offer select rooms with a healthy theme and amenities, that focus on several areas: fitness, comfort, relaxation. The Ritz Carlton Georgetown in Washington include a desk wellness ball, yoga mats, a Germ Guardian air purifier, aromatherapy bath salts, vitamin C aromatherapy shower head to boost the body’s immune system. To ensure a restful night’s slumber, wellness rooms come with sound and sleep machines and a Tempur-pedic pillow.
At Hilton Mc Lean Tysons Corner they are testing fitness rooms with options for a spin room with spin bike, a cardio room and a yoga room. Westin properties loke Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta offer Westin workout rooms with a treadmill or stationery bike, weights, fitness DVDs, resistance bands and stability balls.
Staying healthy while traveling does not have to be hard anymore and hoteliers could help by preparing some wellness rooms.
Lighting and Air Quality
Lighting and the quality of air in a hotel room can have an impact on a guest’s stay. Air quality specifically can have a negative effect in many allergies that people have and that is why air purification systems are becoming more commonplace in homes and businesses. Hotels could improve air quality in rooms by natural aromatherapy, healthy building and furniture materials or air purification systems.
Light on the other hand is one of the most important factors affecting sleep, specifically its timing, intensity ,duration and the wavelength of light. Artificial light at night elevates cortisol levels which disrupts sleep. Some hotels are incorporating “smart” glass with windows that tint on demand based on weather conditions. Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, uses special lighting that significantly reduces blue light, impacting sleep quality.
Wellness Concierge and outdoor activities
There are many hotels that have a wellness concierge or outsource this service but more than ever hotels need a wellness expert who can not only help guests with their healthy routines during their stay but also organize outdoor activities for them. Wellness travelers appreciate the outdoor activity and the culture knowledge gained from the local area. Hotels will have to get more creative in the way they craft the wellness experience, including cultural immersion, local flavor and even volunteering for community service.
Hosting educational or spiritual classes and different group therapies can be an excellent way to provide wellness tourists other alternatives within your hotel. Hoteliers can partner with local wellness experts from different disciplines (yoga and mindfulness instructors, Reiki teachers, nutritional experts, etc) that can offer these classes at your premises.
Final recommendations for implementing wellness programs in hotels
Whether it is called mindfulness or wellness travel, all tourism sectors are incorporating healthier, relaxing and rejuvenating options into their offerings. More and more people are living longer and they want to lead healthy lives and stay fit so they can travel longer.
But sometimes people do not think this option is possible for them at the destination or hotel, so be sure to ask your clients in your initial discovery conversations if they would like to enjoy some wellness activities during their stay at your hotel. Though the best approach would be to ask them before they arrive so that you can anticipate their needs and offer them a wellness themed room and assign a wellness concierge.
Wellness travel is not a cookie-cutter experience. Every destination has a number of unique assets which can and should be developed by wellness tourism. The more discerning and sophisticated wellness traveler, especially those in the millennial generation, are interested in the uniqueness and authenticity a destination has to offer that is different from someplace else.
Furthermore, they are demanding a more integrated, multidimensional approach to wellness, from food to spirituality, sleep tofitness, at hotels and destinations. Keeping a high-touch and personal approach while anticipating and attending the expectations of today’s affluent wellness travelers will be key to survival for luxury hotel brands and tourism in general.
If hotels invest in wellness and adapt their services to these customers it means they will help travelers to improve their health, to keep their healthy habits when travelling and to perform better at work because they stayed at a hotel that offered these things. When we start tracking that, those customers are going to become priceless to hotels. Hotels will not only have ROI but ROW, return on wellness.
We hope that if hotels in Canary Islands do a correct marketing strategy, wellness tourism can benefit in a tremendous way this destination, taking the examples of other countries like Switzerland that are using wellness to draw affluent wellness travelers. Hoteliers should take advantage of the wellness tourism growth rate that is more than twice as fast as tourism overall and helps creating a more sustainable destination.