This week, Spafinder Wellness 365 released part one of its annual State of Wellness Travel Report. Survey findings show the wellness travel sector, a global market estimated at $494 billion, is expanding in directions far beyond luxury spas and in more far-flung global regions. More travel agents than ever expect growth in wellness travel during 2015 and also revealed that, for the first time, Asia ranked as the fastest-growing global wellness travel destination and that Thailand and Costa Rica topped the list of many countries agents identified as getting hotter. “The survey confirms what we have recognized for several years,” says COO John Bevan. “Growth in wellness travel is outpacing traditional travel as people recognize the importance of healthier options. The hospitality and travel industries need to pay attention to the fact that this is a travel sector that will continue to grow and cannot be ignored.”
Awareness of Wellness Travel Growing Everywhere: Agents were asked how awareness of the wellness travel category changed in the last year, and the results show the category is on more people’s radar, on every front. Between 71-80 percent of agents report significant annual growth in awareness with consumers, travel agents, the tourism industry, and hospitality industry.
Many Wellness Elements Matter to Travelers: Agents rated how important 16 different property wellness “elements” were for their average client, and every single component, from healthy cuisine to outdoor adventure programming to alternative medical services, rated as “important,” scoring at least a 5.9 out of 10.
Wellness Travel Reaches beyond Spa: The majority of agents (52 percent) report that 20 percent or less of the wellness-focused travel they book is primarily spa-focused. Just one in five agents (19 percent) say that over 50 percent of the wellness travel booked is primarily focused on spa experiences.
The Wellness Premium: 83 percent of agents agree consumers are willing to pay a premium for wellness travel or access to healthy products and serviceswhile traveling.
Healthy Rise in Healthy Meetings: 79 percent of respondents report that demand for healthier business meetings (i.e., with healthy food, fitness and spa experiences) is a rising trend.
Wellness Travel Destinations Getting “Hotter”:As noted above, among all global regions, Asia saw the biggest growth in wellness travel bookings in the last year, and within that region, Thailand ranked first, followed by Bali/Indonesia and India. In the Americas, Costa Rica was the overwhelming leader, followed by the Caribbean Islands, Nicaragua and Brazil. In Europe, Hungary, Croatia, Turkey, Italy and Greece were standouts, and across the Middle East/Africa, the top popularity gainers were Israel, Dubai and Morocco.
Top Brands in Wellness Travel: When asked to name the top brands in wellness travel, agents submitted dozens of hotels, resorts, spa brands, and individual properties. The top five brands identified were: Canyon Ranch, Starwood (including Westin, St. Regis and Sheraton), Four Seasons, Hyatt and Six Senses.
“It is clear that health-conscious consumers are becoming more sophisticated about their wellness-related needs while traveling,” says chief brand officer Mia Kyricos. “Today, wellness travel reaches far beyond traditional spa experiences, and the survey reveals a savvy new traveler: one that demands an extremely wide range of healthier experiences, from check in to check out.”
The full report is available is here. Additionally, a second report looking at how traveler demographics influence wellness travel choices is forthcoming and in early 2016, Spafinder Wellness will release its second Global Wellness Travel Guide, a directory of leading international wellness properties.