A Healthy Market

The wellness travel niche holds a lot of potential for agents By: Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro

When I started writing for TravelAge West in 2003, it was common for a hotel or resort to send a press release announcing the opening of its new spa. Not its new-and-improved spa or its state-of-the-art biometric wellness longevity center — the opening of a humble spa was considered news back then. And these spas were often humble indeed. I remember one hotel spa where customers had to sit in the lobby in their bathrobes while they waited for their massage. Awkward.

It’s hard to believe how far wellness, as it is known today, has come. According to the Global Spa and Wellness Summit, important sectors of the wellness market include healthful eating, nutrition and weight loss (nearly $277 billion); preventative and personalized health ($243 billion); and complementary and alternative medicine ($113 billion). Wellness tourism, or travel that incorporates these factors, was responsible for $494 billion in revenue in 2013, a 12.5 percent increase from the previous year.

Despite the importance of wellness travel, however, many agents are still confused by the elements that make up this type of trip.

“A well-being vacation strives to maintain, promote or kick-start a healthful lifestyle,” said TravelAge West Executive Editor Mindy Poder, the author of this issue’s cover story, “India, Like a Beatle.” “Wellness travel is experiential since these trips strive to make an impact on the person through engaging with the destination. Wellness travel incorporates preventive health measures such as physical activity in nature; the cultivation of mind-body awareness through practices such as yoga and meditation; and the use of authentic, local treatments and rituals such as hammams, sweat lodges, Ayurvedic massage and more.”

The first step for agents interested in developing their wellness-travel business is to have a conversation with their clients. Ask about their exercise routines, favorite activities and health interests. Some clients may have taken wellness trips in the past, and probably many more have always aspired to take such trips.

For agents, asking these questions is a great way not only to sell more travel, but also to become more involved in your clients’ lives. Eventually, your clients may come to see your travel ideas as a crucial element of their own wellness.