The convergence of wellness with hospitality and travel has led to the rise of “healthy hotels” and the proliferation of wellness destinations, marking a key growth lever for the industry

As the quest for healthy living exerts an ever-tightening grip on consumer culture, from the mainstreaming of organic food to retail-administered therapy—like meditation workshops at Eileen Fisher stores—wellness has quite fittingly emerged as the fastest-growing segment of the tourism industry.

Wellness tourism generated $639.4 billion in 2017, swelling by 6.5% annually from 2015 to 2017, more than twice the growth rate of general tourism, according to a new report from the Global Wellness Institute.

A burgeoning global middle class, heightened consumer desire for a healthy lifestyle, the rising appetite for experiential travel, cheaper flights and more travel options—think Airbnb-style disruption—are steamrolling the trend.

The term wellness tourism connotes the unprecedented convergence of wellness with hospitality and travel that’s led to concepts like “healthy hotels” becoming commonplace, the rise of “wellness programming” at airports, airlines and cruises, and the proliferation of wellness destinations, retreats and tours, according to the report.

On a regional basis, North America is driving the bulk of wellness tourism revenues, chalking up $242 billion annually, while Europe is generating the most wellness trips, a hefty 292 million a year.

But it’s the Asia-Pacific market that’s eclipsing growth in both North America and Europe, with wellness trips surging 33% in the last two years, the report found. China and India rank as the top two wellness growth markets in the region, adding roughly 22 million and 17 million wellness trips, respectively, from 2015 to 2017.

The growth of wellness tourism is one expression of the ripple effect of the $4.2 trillion wellness market.

And it marks “the perfect convergence of macro trends that are influencing where consumers will spend these days,” Wendy Liebmann, CEO of consultancy WSL Strategic Retail, told PSFK.

“The growth in wellness tourism taps into many of these trends, including the significant interest in health and wellbeing across demographics, with a particular focus on preventative self-care,” she said. “It highlights how consumers are category agnostic when it comes being healthy—they have moved way beyond the doctor and the over-the-counter [medication] aisle.”

Wellness tourism also echoes spending shifts from things to experiences, Liebmann said, reflected in the findings of WSL’s recent study, The Big Business of WELL.

“I hate to use the term, ‘the perfect storm,’ when talking about travel, but in this case it is one that many companies—brands, retailers, service industries—should welcome, fast.”

The Global Wellness Institutes expects wellness tourism to hit $919 billion by 2022, when an estimated 1.2-billion wellness trips will be taken annually around the globe.

The key emerging markets through 2022: Asia-Pacific, Latin America-Caribbean, Middle East-North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa are poised for growth, the institute says.

Global Wellness Institute


Lead image: warrior yoga pose at hotel resort stock photo from Syda Productions/Shutterstock

As the quest for healthy living exerts an ever-tightening grip on consumer culture, from the mainstreaming of organic food to retail-administered therapy—like meditation workshops at Eileen Fisher stores—wellness has quite fittingly emerged as the fastest-growing segment of the tourism industry.

Wellness tourism generated $639.4 billion in 2017, swelling by 6.5% annually from 2015 to 2017, more than twice the growth rate of general tourism, according to a new report from the Global Wellness Institute.