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This year’s Global Wellness Summit (GWS) was held Nov. 13-15 at The St. Regis Mexico City and gathered a record number of attendees from the many fields that constitute the wellness industry.
“The Mexico City Summit was a watershed moment, because passionate leaders from economics, medicine, government, technology, spa and wellness, travel, education and the arts came together to debate how to bring preventative health into our chronic-disease- and healthcare-cost-burdened world — much like when the world first came together in Kyoto to declare solidarity against climate change,” said Susie Ellis, chairman and CEO of GWS.
In past years, the hospitality delegates at GWS seemed wary of the spa and wellness category; however, this year, the two fields were inseparable. According to summit experts, the emerging trend of employees working less and traveling more — especially in the U.S. and Asia — will help wellness tourism skyrocket even further than it has in the last few years.
“Wellness will only become a bigger player in the destination resort space, while resorts without wellness and ‘purpose’ will decline,” said Omer Isvan, president of Servotel Corporation, a boutique consulting firm that specializes in hospitality and real estate development projects.
Isvan and other summit experts agree that the “transformational experience” provided by wellness offerings will be what continues to drive the category’s growth. The trend of authenticity in travel will also play a strong role.
During GWS, Jean-Claude Baumgarten, former president of World Travel & Tourism Council, noted the big trend of pairing of wellness with travel categories across the board, including adventure, cruise and even safari.
This trend may be due in part to misconceptions about wellness travel, as well as the fact that only a small percentage of people travel solely for wellness or spa offerings. Another trend noted at GWS was the sector’s focus on children: Several spas and wellness retreats now offer cooking classes, yoga and meditation for younger guests.
What’s more, destinations promoting themselves as premier locations for wellness offerings are being rewarded for their efforts. One example noted at the event was Rotura, New Zealand, which has labeled itself the “Health and Wellness Capital of the South Pacific.” The area has seen a 26 percent increase in visitor spending due to promotion of its authentic thermal waters and adventure-sport offerings.
Attendees from Tirol, Austria, also pointed out that the destination’s focus on wellness is key to its tourism promotion and the 43 million stays Tirol achieves per year — perhaps one reason why the Austrian state has been chosen to host next year’s summit.
Other key areas for wellness travel noted during the summit include developing markets such as Cuba, Croatia and Sri Lanka.