Take a Dive Into Wellness Travel and Tourism

Take a Dive Into Wellness Travel and Tourism

It's no secret that more and more groups are seeking experiences that are enriching, rejuvenating, and truly feed the mind, body and soul.

So why exactly is this wellness-centric type of travel growing in popularity? And what opportunities exist for groups and industry professionals looking to grow their own knowledge? To learn more, we connected with Anne Dimon, acknowledged wellness travel expert, industry consultant and Co-Founder and President/CEO of the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA).

To better understand this niche, let's first take a look at some terms, outlined by WTA, which are meant to provide clarity to industry professionals:

WELLNESS TOURISM: A specific division of the global tourism industry that is defined by the common goal of marketing natural assets and/or activities primarily focused on serving the wellness-minded consumer and those who want to be.

WELLNESS TRAVEL: Travel that allows the traveler to maintain, enhance or kick-start a healthy lifestyle, and support or increase one's sense of wellbeing.

"More group planners are gravitating toward more wellness-focused travel because they understand that more people have adopted 'wellness' as a lifestyle and planners need to appeal to this ever-growing cohort," Dimon said. "In addition, there are more offerings in various price categories, allowing more travelers to take advantage of packages and programs positioned within their travel budgets."

It's true there was a time when wellness travel was all about the spa experience. However, Dimon explained that while a spa experience can certainly enhance a trip, it's not mandatory and other options are available.

"Since 'wellness' and 'sense-of-wellbeing' are defined in very personal terms, what constitutes 'wellness travel experiences' can certainly vary from person to another, and can depend on the traveler's specific goal or intention," Dimon said. "Some may want to use a particular trip with wellness as the total focus, while others simply want to incorporate wellness elements and activities into a trip they're taking for another reason."

Experiences with a wellness focus can vary greatly, from learning how to cook invigorating plant-based food at Fivelements Retreat in Bali, Indonesia, to finding hope and healing on a grief-centered cruise by "The Grief Cruises," to group yoga retreats at Costa Rica's Blue Osa and more. Even psychedelic-supported retreats—like those offered by Beckley Retreats in a number of locations—exist for those seeking another avenue for opening their mind and connecting to their most authentic self.

Regardless of what type of wellness experience travelers opt for, one factor remains consistent.

"While we are seeing more healthy aging and longevity-focused offerings, the most popular wellness travel theme today seems to be personalization of programs and customized packages," Dimon said. "One of the reasons behind the growing popularity of 'personalization' is consumer demand. The WTA's 2023 Wellness Travel Consumer Survey indicated that 75% percent of respondents preferred a self-guided program instead of a structured program."

Many agree the popularity of wellness travel and tourism is only going to continue to grow.

"As more people come to realize that we are each individually responsible for our own health and wellbeing, the demand for wellness travel will continue to grow which, in turn, will fuel the continuing growth of the wellness tourism segment as more tourism stakeholders (hotels, tour operators, DMOs and travel advisors) look to cater to this ever-growing space," Dimon shared.

Group travel professionals interested in growing their knowledge of wellness travel and tourism can take "Wellness: A Travel Specialist Course – 2nd Edition," offered by the Travel Institute and WTA. This course, recommended and co-authored by Dimon, teaches participants about wellness travel terminology, trends, buyer profiles, consumer motivations and must-haves, a wide range of wellness travel products, as well as actionable advice from industry insiders. (bit.ly/WellnessTravelSpecialist)

"Blue zones"—regions in the world where people live longer than average and enjoy a high quality of life—have also drawn curiosity from travelers seeking to improve their own wellness, especially on the heels of Netflix's Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones. They include: Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.

This article originally appeared in the May/Jun '24 issue ofGroups Today.


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