Wellness tourism enjoying growth says GWI’s Ellis

On Wednesday 7 March at the ITB Berlin Convention, Global Wellness Institute (GWI) Chairman and CEO Susie Ellis provided a wide-ranging analysis of the $4.2tr (€3.74tr) Wellness economy. She said: “10-15 years ago, we didn’t use the term very much – but today wellness is everywhere, from the workplace to tourism.”

While the biggest contributors to the Wellness economy are personal care and nutrition, Ellis said that Wellness Tourism is also a large and growing market – worth $639bn in 2017. “All Wellness categories grew faster than GDP between 2015 and 2017, but Wellness Tourism was one of the strongest. At 6.4% it was nearly double GDP (3.6%). And we are projecting annual growth of 7.5% through until 2022.”

Such is the dynamism of the segment that a growing number of countries and regions are putting Wellness “front and centre” of their tourism offerings, Ellis said. She cited examples from around the world including Costa Rica, Thailand, India, Norway and Bhutan.

Wellness offerings around the world are very distinctive and often rooted in local culture, Ellis said, and she welcomed this, saying that “tourists want special and authentic”.

She also said there is a distinction between “Primary” and “Secondary” Wellness Tourism. Primary is where wellness is the core reason for a journey, whereas secondary covers situations where wellness plays a part in a trip. “The latter category is by far the bigger,” she added.

In terms of the key markets for Wellness, Ellis said North America and Europe are currently the biggest by some margin. However Asia-Pacific is growing fast, with The Middle East and North Africa close behind.

Ellis said there is still some confusion between Medical and Wellness Tourism. She set out GWI’s definitions – saying that Medical tends to involve treatment, doctors and is reactive. Wellness is more about voluntary maintenance and stress reduction. “I think one of the confusions is due to the use of the term Health Tourism, which blurs things”.