Study sees continued growth in spa travel

By Jeri Clausing
*INSIGHTLOGO200x115Women have always loved doing it, alone or together. Now, more men are indulging. And some are even making it a family affair.

Those are some of the findings from the latest “State of Spa Travel” survey of North American travel agents. The seventh annual report, from Spafinder Wellness 365, says 2013 was a turnaround year for spa travel, with 73% of agents reporting growth in bookings. In 2012, considered a rebound year for the sector, 68% of agents reported an increase in bookings. And all signs point to continued growth in 2014.

The survey of more than 300 agents in the last quarter of 2013 found that 75% of North American agents see wellness tourism as a distinctly rising travel trend, with 22% indicating it continues just as strong as in the past.

Jeri ClausingFemale bonding trips, not surprisingly, continue to lead the travel category. And Gen Xers are slowing overtaking baby boomers as the age group most likely to book spa travel, the survey shows.

“This new data provides fresh evidence that what we’ve been hearing about the growth of the wider wellness tourism category is undeniably true,” said Mia Kyricos, chief brand officer for Spafinder Wellness. “And it also proves that spa travel is on the rise in North America, which is the now the world’s largest wellness travel market, generating over 40% of the total dollars spent in that global segment.”

For the first time the survey asked agents how spa-goers most typically travel, and they reported that women traveling together clearly lead. That was followed by a woman traveling with a man and women traveling alone. Fourth was family travel, followed by men traveling solo and men traveling together.

And while baby boomers, who for years have represented the main spa travel demographics, continued to be the No. 1 group booking spa travel, in 2013 that group represented the very youngest of baby boomers, age 46 to 55, and they were followed very closely by Gen Xers age 36 to 45. Also significant, ages 26 to 35 now trump those over 65 in spa bookings.

In keeping with broader luxury trends the surveyed also showed spa travelers, 62%, are looking for more exotic locations. And 57% want more authentic experiences.

When it comes to new hot spots, Costa Rica topped the list. Other up-and-comers in Central America are Belize and Nicaragua. In South America the standouts were Argentina and Chile. In Europe, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Turkey were the favorites. In Asia, Cambodia, India, the Maldives, Myanmar and Vietnam topped the “getting hotter”’ list. In Africa, South Africa and the Seychelles ranked highest.
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