Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

It’s no secret that travelers are increasingly looking for health and wellness options.

From expansive gyms and boot camps to indigenous medicine and spa treatments, health and wellness has become one of the biggest trends in luxury travel -- and one travelers are willing to pay more for.

The Global Wellness Institute reports that research for its Global Spa & Wellness Economy report shows international wellness travelers now spend on average $1,639 per trip, or 59% more than the average tourist. Domestic wellness travelers spend $688 per trip, which is 159% more than the typical domestic tourist.

According to Global Wellness data, the number of wellness tourism trips is expected to grow twice as fast each year compared with international trips overall, 8.3% versus 4.1%, between 2012 and 2017.

And exceptionally high-spending wellness travelers will spend 137% more than the average traveler per trip, the institute says.

Wellness tourism also can be important in countries like Mexico and India that are overcoming recent tourism shocks, and those like Cambodia and Nicaragua that are rebuilding after past conflicts, the institute said.

Ten such nations analyzed by Global Wellness Institute, the institute says, will see, on average, a 7.2% annual growth rate in inbound trips overall, but a 19.5% annual rise in inbound wellness tourism trips.

“Wellness tourism can play a major role in the image-building that is critical for nations that have experienced crisis-driven tourism disruptions,” said Katherine Johnston, a Global Wellness Institute senior research fellow and senior economist at SRI International, which conducts the research for the institute. “It’s an opportunity for countries to tell an ongoing story about their unique in-nature experiences, indigenous healing traditions or wellness/spa destinations, which casts a ‘healthy halo’ over their country.”

She said a wellness-based brand can be “a unique weapon in transforming people’s perceptions … when bad events occur.”

Susie Ellis, chairman and CEO of the Institute, said even one great, well-marketed,  wellness-focused property can put an entire nation on the healthy traveler’s map “and jumpstart a wellness travel wave.”


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