Global wellness tourism continues to grow

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Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

The global wellness-tourism industry has grown 14% over the last two years, more than twice as fast as overall tourism, according to a report from the Global Wellness Institute.

The full report won't be released until next year, but the initial results of the 2016 Global Wellness Economy Monitor were unveiled at the group's 10th annual Global Wellness Summit, held in Tyrol, Austria. And they certainly indicate more good news for luxury tourism and the growing number of resorts and travel companies that are expanding their wellness offerings.

According to a press release from the GWI, wellness tourism revenue grew from $494.1 billion in 2013 to $563.2 billion in 2015, or 14%, compared to 6.9% growth in overall tourism. The institute also reported that world travelers made 691 million wellness trips in 2015, 104.4 million more than in 2013, with wellness tourism now accounting for 15.6% of total tourism revenues, nearly one of every six dollars tourists spent.

Wellness tourists also spent 61% more per trip, GWI said, with the spending by domestic wellness travelers being 164% higher than the typical domestic tourist. Wellness tourism is also responsible for 17.9 million jobs worldwide.

"A profound shift in the way people consume wellness is underway: once a luxury or add-on, it's now being infused into every aspect of daily life, from how people work to how they travel," said Katherine Johnston, senior research fellow at GWI. "And the spending on proactive, healthy choices, on wellness, will continue to comprise a greater percentage of massive multitrillion industries, whether [it's] real estate, food and beverage or travel."

In addition to wellness tourism, the group reported the global wellness industry in general grew 10.6%, from $3.36 billion in 2013 to $3.72 billion in 2015, providing fresh evidence, the group said, that "wellness is one of the world's largest, fastest growing and most resilient markets."

Among the 10 wellness markets analyzed, tourism came in as the fourth fastest growing, behind preventive and personalized medicine, which grew 23.5%; fitness and mind and body, which was up 21.4%; and wellness-lifestyle real estate, at 18.6%.

"Recent years have been marked by global economic contraction and disruptive geopolitical events, but a wellness economy just keeps rising, with an upward trajectory that seems unstoppable," said Ophelia Yeung, senior research fellow at GWI. "And we predict that consumers, governments and employers will continue to spend big on wellness because of these megatrends: an emerging global middle class, a rapidly aging world population, a chronic disease and stress epidemic, the failure of the sick-care medical model [resulting in uncontrollable healthcare costs] and a growing subset of [more affluent, educated] consumers seeking experiences rooted in meaning, purpose, authenticity and nature."

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