ITB 2019 Special Reporting
2018 Global Wellness Tourism Economy
By Global Wellness Institute
Thursday, 8th November 2018

2018 Global Wellness Tourism EconomyThe new 100-page Global Wellness Tourism Economy edition is packed with more regional and national data and trends analysis than ever before – including, for the first time, the spending premiums for wellness travelers (both inbound and domestic) for dozens of countries and the national tourism boards worldwide that are actively promoting wellness tourism.

“Wellness tourism burst into the consumer consciousness just a very few years ago, and it’s hard to grasp the speed of its growth and evolution,” noted Katherine Johnston and Ophelia Yeung, GWI Sr. Researchers.

“Wellness, hospitality, and travel are now converging in unprecedented ways, from the ‘healthy hotel’ concept going utterly mainstream to airports, airlines, and cruises injecting so much wellness programming, to the profusion of ever-more-creative wellness destinations, retreats and tours. The wellness concept is transforming almost every aspect of travel and wellness tourism will only grow faster in years ahead, as it lies at the powerful intersection of two massive, booming industries: the $2.6 trillion tourism industry and the $4.2 trillion wellness market.”

Key Findings

  • Wellness tourism grew from a $563 billion market in 2015 to $639 billion in 2017, or 6.5% annually, more than twice as fast as tourism overall (3.2%). It’s forecast to grow even faster through 2022 (7.5% yearly), to reach $919 billion.
  • North America drives the most wellness tourism revenues ($242 billion yearly) and Europe the most wellness trips (292 million) – but Asia-Pacific is the eye-opening growth leader, with wellness trips growing a whopping 33% in the last two years.
  • China and India rank #1 and #2 for growth: adding roughly 22 million and 17 million wellness trips respectively from 2015-2017.

Wellness Tourism Expenditures by Region, 2015 vs. 2017

World travelers made 830 million wellness trips in 2017, 139 million more than in 2015 – representing 17% of all tourism revenues (or 1 in 6 ‘dollars’ spent’). Developing markets lead the growth story: Asia-Pacific, Latin America-Caribbean, Middle East-North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa represented only 40% of wellness trips in 2017, but accounted for 57% of the increase in trips since 2015.

Total Industry: $563.2 bil. – $639.4 bil.

  • North America: $215.7 bil. – $241.7 bil.
  • Europe: $193.4 bil. – $210.8 bil.
  • Asia-Pacific: $111.2 bil. – $136.7 bil.
  • Latin America/Caribbean: $30.4 bil. – $34.8 bil.
  • Middle East/North Africa: $8.3 bil. – $10.7 bil.
  • Africa: $4.2 bil. – $4.8 bil.

Top 10 National Markets

Wellness tourism is heavily concentrated in several countries across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The top five nations (US, Germany, China, France, Japan) represent 59% of the global market, and the US alone drives over one-third of world revenues. Since 2013, both China and India have shot up in the rankings: China jumping from 11th to 3rd today; India hopping from 16th to 7th.

  1. US: 176.5 mil. (Wellness Trips) – $226 bil. (Wellness Expenditures)
  2. Germany: 66.1 mil. – $65.7 bil.
  3. China: 70.2 mil. – $31.7 bil.
  4. France: 32.4 mil. – $30.7 bil.
  5. Japan: 40.5 mil. – $22.5 bil.
  6. Austria: 16.8 mil. – $16.5 bil.
  7. India: 56 mil. – $16.3 bil.
  8. Canada: 27.5 mil. – $15.7 bil.
  9. UK: 23.2 mil. – $13.5. bil.
  10. Italy: 13.1 mil. – $13.4 bil.

The Future? Faster Growth Ahead

Wellness tourism is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 7.5% through 2022, considerably faster than the 6.4% growth estimated for overall tourism. The spend will hit $919 billion, with 1.2 billion wellness trips taken annually, by 2022.

Watch emerging markets: over half of the expenditure growth (and three-quarters of the wellness trips growth) through 2022 will take place in Asia-Pacific, Latin America-Caribbean, Middle East-North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

A Seriously High-Spending Traveler

Wellness travelers are very high-spending, high-yield tourists. In 2017, international wellness tourists on average spent $1,528 per trip, 53% more than the typical international tourist. The premium for domestic wellness tourists is even higher: at $609 per trip, they spend 178% more than your average domestic tourist.

Secondary Wellness Travelers = Bulk of Trips and Spend

The GWI identifies two types of wellness travelers. The “primary” variety is a traveler whose trip/destination choice is primarily motivated by wellness. The “secondary” is a traveler who participates in wellness experiences on any leisure or business trip.

While there’s a misconception that wellness travelers are a small, elite, rich group who visit destination spas or meditation retreats, it’s actually the more mainstream secondary breed that comprises the dramatic bulk of the market: 89% of wellness trips and 86% of expenditures.

More Countries Promoting Their Wellness “Assets”

The number of countries actively marketing their wellness offerings at the national level has jumped from 65 in 2013 to over 100 in 2018.

And in the US, while only eight of the fifty states marketed the sector in 2013, now over one-third promote some form of wellness tourism on their official state tourism website. What’s crucial is that destinations are now developing far more authentic, place-based wellness tourism products and brands – whether pioneers like Kerala, India, which branded itself the “Land of Ayurveda” over two decades ago, or Costa Rica’s new “Wellness Pura Vida” campaign.

Download the report here.

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